There is not a s single day that goes by when I do not think of Paul Wellstone. My name is Larry Smith, a public school educator who, like Paul, I battle Multiple Sclerosis. I am the son of 4 generations of coal miners in this nestle of Appalachia in Western Maryland. Although I never met Paul Wellstone in person, like many Americans, I feel as though he knew me. When he ran his first US Senate race in 1990 for the US Senate, I was so moved by the fighting spirit of this, "true progressive", that I wrote letters to the editor around various newspapers in Minnesota supporting him.
When he went to the US Senate, I could not wait to look for him to speak on the Senate floor on C-Span. Paul Wellstone lived a life that was a call to action for ordinary Americans. Paul recognized that the divide between the "haves" and "have nots" was the direct result of inaction on the part of ordinary Americans. In 2008, as a full-time public school administrator who has Multiple Sclerosis, I ran for the US House of Representatives for Maryland's 6th Congressional District. I was fortunate to attend Camp Wellstone in the fall of 2008, at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. I met Erik Peterson who changed my life. I was inspired by Erik who knew and worked with Paul personally. In death, Paul Wellstone lives through others. He certainly lives through Erik. Although I was unsuccessful in my bid for the US Congress, I was successful in igniting fires of Paul's progressive movement in Western Maryland that still burn today. Yes, in death, Paul Wellstone lives. I have many people every day ask me, "What does your Maryland license plate mean?" You see, my license plate is a vanity plate that reads "Welstne". I am eager to take a few moments and tell them who Paul Wellstone was, what his message was, who and what he fought for, the tragic promising life of the future President of the US that was cut short. I have had some who have noticed my license plate and say, "Is that for Paul Wellstone?" I am quick to say, "Yes, yes it is." They often tell me their favorite Paul Wellstone story or how they miss him. You see Paul Wellstone was not just the "conscience of the Senate" he was the "Nation's Senator." When I had the privilege of being in Washington in 2007 with my wife, Nancy and daughter Hannah visiting US Senator from Maryland Paul Sarbanes, he took my family and I on the floor of the US Senate as the Senate was not in session. He asked me which Senator's desk I wanted to see, Lincoln's, John and Robert Kennedy? I said, "If there is one Senator's desk I would like to see, it would be, Paul Wellstone's." As I looked down at his desk, I said to myself, "This is where the voice of America once sat, stood, and spoke." My daughter, Hannah, who was 8 at the time, said, "Daddy, you loved Paul Wellstone didn't you?" I said, "I sure did, because Paul Wellstone loved all people and fought for people like you and me, and your granddaddy's who labored and died working in the mines." I am proud to say that my daughter Hannah, now 16, is a leader in her Young Democrats of America chapter and a legacy keeper and passer for Paul Wellstone. In a time when our nation needs heroes, we still have Paul Wellstone. His message lives on through us.