Minnesota Makes History, the Wellstone Way

May 28, 2013

Three weeks ago, on a perfectly sunny and lightly breezy Monday afternoon, I picked up my just-turned-five-year-old daughter from daycare and we made our way to the Minnesota Capitol. That afternoon was the day the Senate was voting on marriage equality for all Minnesotans – the final step in our home state’s battle for love, commitment, and family – and it’s not every day that you get a chance to see history happening in your own backyard.

This is an issue that Wellstone Action cares deeply about; Minnesotans United for All Families Campaign Manager Richard Carlbom and several senior campaign staff are Wellstone Action alumni. Several of our own staff, me included, guided major pieces of the campaign, seeing it to victory, the Wellstone Way. For the first time in our country’s history, we would defeat a ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage – one that, if it had passed, would have made this afternoon trip to the Capitol with my kiddo impossible.

But we won.

We won - the first state in 30 tries to come through with a victory for social justice. And Wellstone Action’s work to train campaign staff, senior leaders, and volunteers statewide; to guide field operations for young people, people of color, and American Indian communities; and to direct Get Out The Vote and end-game operations was unprecedented. And we won.

But this campaign wasn’t about making history, although we did. It was about returning to history – to a way of winning that is rooted in authenticity, conviction, and meaningful conversation. This campaign was won the Wellstone Way, and while this victory reflects, for sure, how far we’ve come, it also taught us how very much we have left yet to do. 1 out of 30 just ain’t good enough.

As Richard put it:

"For those who truly want to make a difference, Wellstone Action's Advanced Campaign Management School provides the tools and a broad understanding of what it takes to make an impact and improve people’s lives.The core of our campaign was the idea that through personal conversations, we could create a respectful dialogue that was authentic and real. And we knew if we could do that, we could win." Minnesotans United for All Families Campaign Manager Richard Carlbom

This year, Wellstone Action celebrates its 10th birthday. We’ve grown from a one-room office into the largest training center for the progressive movement in the country. We couldn’t be prouder of the values that ground us – Paul and Sheila’s promise to create a community where we all do better when we all do better. And as we look ahead to the massive challenges that are still in the way of this vision – for LGBTQ equality, for immigration reform, for protections for workers, and voters, and families in all forms – we are renewed by the Wellstone Way, and the victories it makes possible.

The Minnesota Senate passed marriage equality that Monday afternoon. The Governor signed it into law the very next day. Representative Karen Clark, author of the bill, quoted Paul Wellstone at this historic signing:  “Change comes from the grassroots when people demand it and their leaders follow by doing the right thing.”

And my daughter saw it happen, and she understands that her dad, and the people he works with, helped make it possible. And the whole truth of it is - all of you who support Wellstone Action’s work made this victory for justice possible.

A few years from now, my twin sons will also be turning five. And as Wellstone Action continues to do the work of improving people’s lives, I can only guess at which of many victories for justice we’ll have the chance to celebrate together, too.

All best,