Every Goodbye Ain't Gone

Wellstone Remembered

I've been a very vocal critic of his since '96. I guess--I think he changed, that he took some politically motivated votes. But by and large, when he wasn't campaigning, he did what he said he was going to do. No matter what the cost was. When you saw a 97-3 vote in the Senate, you could bet money Paul was going to be on the short end of that. The New York Times called him "the conscience of the Senate" in an editorial. He cast that vote against welfare reform in '96, I remember, and I hated the spot we did about it. But I admired Paul for casting that vote in an election year. Like the Iraq vote this year. There were points at which he just said, No, this is what I'm going to do, and I don't care if it costs me the election. (Perry)

 

Robert Bonner
CARLETON COLLEGE PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF HISTORY AND LIBERAL ARTS

Paul never changed, from beginning to end. His energy was absolutely astonishing. But he was not an academic, even at the beginning. He wouldn't go to faculty meetings. He wouldn't take part in the sort of formal dimensions of collegiate membership. He wasn't in some senses very collegial. For him a chance to teach was a chance to get people who were young, who might be looking for a point in their lives, and help them discover who they were and what they thought.

I remember the things people did, particularly people who were opposed to him, more than I remember particular things that Paul did. He was turned down for tenure in 1973 or 1974. What I remember is that during the course of that, the president's secretary--either on orders or on her own--went over to Rice County with a dark scarf and dark glasses on and went into the welfare office over there. It was as if she was trying to dig up some stuff about Wellstone. Very bizarre. I haven't any idea what effect it had on the process. But Paul was turned down for tenure and he appealed.

The whole thing was turned over to a panel of off-campus evaluators who then awarded him tenure. [Carleton president Howard] Swearer just rankled. He wrote a letter to the community denouncing it. It was an Oh my God, you've tenured this impossible person who we're just going to have to live with kind of letter. What [Paul] remembers--in fact, I believe it's what he put into the book--is that he won this because of the outpouring of student support. Surely, there was student support for him, but he didn't win it because of student support. There weren't students out rioting in the streets, which seemed to be the way that Paul remembered it. But there was strong student support for Paul.

He had some good friends among the faculty, but he was not really a member of the Carleton faculty in the same way that a lot of us were. He wasn't particularly popular in that way. I think it was because he really made it very clear that he had an agenda and a point to his life and his work that was outside the campus. Most of the people on the faculty came to think of him as somebody running his own show. Some of the people in his own department were among the ones most opposed to him.

When he did the campaign for Senate in 1990, the press didn't pay any attention. His announcement was buried on page four of the Star Tribune. He simply could not get the attention of anybody. And the fact is that except for Norm Vig, Mike Casper, and Sy Schuster, nobody around here thought he had any business doing it either. And those of us who were good friends of his for a long, long time--we thought this was quixotic as hell.

Just about everybody I know at Carleton on the faculty had greater or lesser disagreements with Paul. Paul was a polarizing kind of guy. One time or another, just about everybody parted company with him on some issue. Mike Casper and Sy Schuster might be the only exceptions. He was not an easy colleague always, but when it came to supporting him for the U.S. Senate, the Carleton faculty must have been about 98 percent in favor of him. (Tortorello)

 

Nina Black-Zachary
WELLSTONE CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER

In 1990 I was working very hard trying to get people registered to vote. And the day after the election I went over to the precinct polling place to see how the African-American vote had gone. And I was disappointed, because I am from the state of Mississippi, where we did not have the right to vote, and where my grandmother tried to organize African Americans to vote, and in fact she did. But ultimately she was murdered because of this. She paid the ultimate price for her efforts there. And I saw [Wellstone] there and told him what I was thinking about the African-American vote and he said, "Don't be sad. I surely understand why some people who have been mistreated--and are still in some ways being mistreated--I understand why they think the political process doesn't work. But," he said, "we won't give up. We will keep working." And I do know for a fact that Paul worked for people whether they donated money or not. Because he said he realized people making minimum wages had no money.

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