More Wellstone Memories

 

Neil McCormick,
electrician, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 110-St. Paul

I went to Seattle to the WTO protest, and it was cold and raining. In Seattle, they have a statue, "The Hammering Man," as a tribute to union workers. Paul was right there with us, giving us a rousing speech under "The Hammering Man." He was speaking against corporate takeover of the world and exploiting cheap labor. He was getting all wet, but he warmed us all up, and he told us to keep fighting. And we did it, we shut 'em down. We were nonviolent, of course. I don't know how we're going to replace him. The current administration in Washington wants to get rid of him and that tells me they are anti-worker. We've lost the greatest advocate for working people in Minnesota. It saddens me to the nth degree--all the work he's done and all the volunteers that have worked so hard with him, and it's over. (Anderson)

 

Dr. Carlos René Gonzales,
former Wellstone student, rural family physician with the United States-Mexico Border Health Commission, and trustee of Carleton College

I came in from an inner-city Tucson neighborhood where the only white people I knew were teachers and cops. Most of the teachers didn't give a shit about us; most of the cops were out to bust our asses. So I didn't have a very good impression of white people.

Paul was one of the first white people I ever met who was nice, who was actually open. Who saw injustice as I saw injustice and wanted to do something about it. It opened my eyes to ways of thinking about injustice and how to deal with injustice in an appropriate manner. He opened my eyes to the philosophy of nonviolence, in opposition to discrimination.

He was always a very gentle soul. One of the most important things is that he could relate to oppressed minorities. Other people have postulated that it had to do possibly with his Jewish descent. Back in those days, I didn't know. All I knew is that this was some guy who cared, and could relate. And he knew--I don't know if he knew--but he felt at least, he truly felt, the pain of oppression and discrimination. And that's where I was coming from at that time. I was going into medicine and he knew it, so he encouraged me to take one of his courses. I believe it was the politics of healthcare. He was the first who really started discussing way back then the injustices of our health system and the inequities that existed in our healthcare system. The politics of health insurance. He was way ahead of his time. For me, it helped formulate my future career, because I subsequently ended up working in community health--health for the poor, basically, and for the uninsured. Everything that he talked about was true then and it's true now. (Tortorello)

 

Eduardo Barrera,
Latino activist

Folks talk about his passion, but it often truly was the case. One case in particular: Just three weeks ago, we were celebrating the opening of Plaza Latina over on the East Side of St. Paul and he was there. How he got around so much, I don't know. But he spoke to us all in the Latino community. He talked about human rights, equality and justice, and how we as Latinos would be guaranteed that as long as he was around. We all believed him. Personally, we are now committed to follow through for him. It's like, he told us all how to do it, now we have the power to go out and do it. (Anderson)

 

R. T. Rybak,
mayor of Minneapolis

I got to know him well during Bill Bradley's [2000 presidential] campaign, because I was helping out and Wellstone was the chair. Bradley came to town for a speech and was introduced by Sheila. It was a great introduction, and the next day at a fundraiser I came up to Paul and Sheila and said, "Your wife was incredible last night!" And he kind of looked at her and laughed and said, "Who is this guy?"

When I started running, nobody took me seriously. Nobody in the political establishment took me seriously, so we couldn't find anybody to give me a quote [for campaign literature]. Who would give us a quote? That was our problem. Then I saw him at a DFL event [at the Minneapolis Convention Center] and Wellstone came up and hugged me, and told me how much he appreciated that I was running a grassroots campaign. So we're putting our campaign brochures together, and [Wellstone campaign manager Jeff] Blodgett called me and said he would give me a quote. No endorsement, but something positive. That meant a huge amount for us. We were at that church center on Franklin and LaSalle and he's introducing me on the campaign trail, and he forgot [my wife] Megan's name. And he turns to us and says, "Your name?" And I looked right at him and said "R.T." I didn't think he knew my name. "No, I know your name, I mean your wife!" (Anderson)

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