In bleak times, the best wisdom we can offer to progressives is to learn from our heroes. And there are fewer heroes that stood as tall or touched as many lives as the late Senator Paul Wellstone and his amazing wife Sheila. Since Paul and Sheila’s tragic death from a plane crash only 11 days before the 2002 election – also killed were their daughter Marcia and five others – progressives have been in search of someone who speaks to our values. The loss of Sen. Paul Wellstone and his relentless and passionate voice is still felt today.
We are proud to offer a new compelling documentary about the life and work of Paul and Sheila, called "Wellstone!" This film is a stirring tribute to the Wellstone family, and just like one of Paul’s fiery stump speeches, "Wellstone!" will inspire you and call forth your own passion to help those around you and to become involved in your community and in politics again. One of Paul Wellstone’s favorite lines was that "politics is not about money and power, but the improvement of people’s lives."
Paul Wellstone wasn’t selling snake oil like so many other politicians – he was the real thing. Paul knew that change only happens when people organize, start working together, and fight for what they believe in with sheer determination. There are no short cuts to fighting for social justice, just plain old hard work, patience, and living a full life along the way.
"Carry It Forward Productions" used rare home video and archival footage as well as interviews with the Wellstone’s close friends, family, and staff, including interviews with Al Franken, E.J. Dionne, Walter Mondale, Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Jeff Blodgett, Paul’s campaign manger, to tell this beautiful story. Lu Lippold, Laurie Stern, Dan Luke, Pamela Colby and Shayna Berkowitz have created a stunning biography and a true gift to the progressive community by helping to keep the Wellstone legacy alive.
"Wellstone!" traces the life of Paul and Sheila as young high school sweet hearts from Virginia, to organizing the poor in Durham, North Carolina while Paul was a graduate student, to Paul’s entrance at Carlton College in Minnesota as an unconventional political science professor. Paul Wellstone wasn’t confined to his classroom and he spent his time helping farmers and laborers organize and teaching hands-on social justice work to his students. Later we see Wellstone emerge as a savvy populist and ardent campaigner when he defeated incumbent Rudy Boschwitz in a surprising upset in 1990 for the U.S. Senate. And of course there is the painful and electric funeral where thousands of people turned out to mourn their beloved Senator. The scenes of the news of the plane crash and funeral are a stirring tribute to the difference Paul and Sheila Wellstone made in the lives of those around them.
But the film doesn’t gloss over Paul’s missteps and controversies such as his press conference in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that offended veterans groups before the first Gulf War and which the press dubbed as insensitive. The film also documents Paul Wellstone’s vote against allowing same-sex couples to get married -- later Paul asks his own staff to educate him about the issue.
Paul Wellstone believed in a politics of conviction, and that he could only vote his conscience and let the chips fall where they may, even if it meant losing his Senate seat. He bucked the trends of his own party in 1996 in the midst of a bitter re—election fight and opposed President Clinton’s "welfare reform" initiative saying it would hurt children and working families who don’t have lobbyists to speak up for them. And in 2002, Sen. Wellstone voted against the resolution to give the President sweeping authority to invade Iraq and instill a "preemptive strike" doctrine while every other democratic Senator up for re—election cowered under Karl Rove’s repulsive strategy to stage a war for political advantage. And the film gives Sheila Wellstone her due for her tireless advocacy for victims of domestic violence, her role as a key advisor and partner to her husband throughout their lives, and her dedication to raising her family and three children, David, Mark, and Marcia.
This will be a long and dreary four years, but Paul Wellstone would no doubt spur us to get to work. He often said, "Sometimes you’ve got to start a fight to win one."
We stand on the shoulders of giants, none more proudly than the late Sen. Paul and Sheila Wellstone.