Al Franken Gets Emotional in Post About His Deceased Mentor, and Hero.
The following was first published on Al Franken's Facebook Page:
"The last time I saw Paul Wellstone was at a 2002 campaign event in St. Paul just weeks before he died. He was locked in a bitter re-election battle, and despite being in a grueling fight for his political life, the first thing he said to me was, “How’s your mom?” As it happened, I had just come from the nursing home in Minneapolis, where Mom wasn’t doing well. I told Paul that her sporadic dementia had made it impossible to even have a conversation with her that day. He nodded, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You know, touch means so much.”
That was Paul.
The next day, I returned to the nursing home and as I sat quietly with mom, I put my arm around her. I’m not sure if it meant anything to her, but it meant a lot to me.
Paul’s life and his work meant a lot to me too. His example as a tireless, passionate champion for working families, for veterans, for farmers, and for those who simply needed a voice has inspired my own time in the Senate. And each day I serve, I remember Paul’s words: “Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives.”
Minnesotans hold a deep respect of Paul. They leave notes and mementos for him at the quiet memorial site honoring him just off of Highway 53 near Eveleth, Minnesota. They leave them for his wife Sheila too, and for the six others—Paul and Sheila’s daughter Marcia Markuson, campaign staffers Tom Lapic, Mary McEvoy, and Will McLaughlin, and pilots Richard Conry and Michael Guess—who died with them 15 years ago today when their plane crashed just miles from the Eveleth-Virginia Airport.
I’ve been to the memorial site, and I’ve seen how deeply and personally Paul touched people in Minnesota and across the country. He inspired them not only as a Senator for 12 years, but also as a Carleton College professor who encouraged a generation of students to take action in their communities. He did so as a fiery organizer who stood up for Minnesota’s farmers and working families, insisting on giving them a voice and a seat at the table. He never lost the tenacious spirit that led him to be a collegiate wrestling champion, and he brought that same approach to standing up for Minnesotans.
I miss Paul. He was a mentor and a hero to me. And while he isn’t here with us today, his legacy lives on in so many ways. It lives on in the generation of students and activists he trained and inspired in Minnesota. It lives on in the policies he fought for here in the Senate – for access to mental health care, for a cleaner environment, and making sure working families get a fair shot. And it lives on in the countless lives he touched – like mine, and my mom’s. I’m proud to serve in his seat in the Senate. And I’m proud to be part of carrying of his legacy."