Paul Would Want It That Way

May 24, 2013

Meet Tom Sen Gupta. He believes in Wellstone Action, just as he believed in Paul and Sheila Wellstone.

Tom Sen Gupta recalls Paul Wellstone from his Carleton days. His oldest daughter, Stephanie, was one of Paul’s students, and it’s she who first introduced them. “He had a deep belief in ordinary folk.”

Tom came to the U.S. from India, bound for Loyola University in New Orleans. Strolling around his new neighborhood, he bumped into a small, basement bookstore, and found himself drawn to a book towards the back. It was about the McCarthy era, and Tom – on a path to study medicine – suspected he’d found himself another, second calling. “The book was about depression, really. All these people blacklisted, guys who lost their jobs, lost their families, committed suicide – that guy McCarthy has haunted me for the last 50 years. And it’s why I have to do something for people who live their ideals. And it’s also the reason I loved Paul, because he understood people’s suffering, and their humanity.”

It was Paul’s own humanity that first attracted Tom to get involved in politics more formally. “Paul believed in common folks and what they can do if given the proper opportunity. He had a politics of hope, and he gave that hope to me.” While Tom could’ve gone to pharmacy school in California or New York, he chose to stay in Minnesota, pursuing his graduate education – and his political education – simultaneously. He helped support both of Paul’s campaigns in 1990 and 1996, often attending many of Paul’s speeches, even when he was himself exhausted by everything on his plate, “just so Paul could always see a friendly face.”

Today, Tom is the pharmacist at – and owner of – Schneider Drug on University Avenue in Minneapolis. He’s also one of Wellstone Action’s most steadfast and generous supporters, and has been with us since the very beginning. When we asked him why he believes in us, Tom said: “I think all you really need is four, maybe five people out of a hundred to make change in this world – that’s where you guys come in. You, Wellstone Action, you find the people all over the country who will work for their ideals and change society into a better place. You’re the closest thing we have to Paul, and I’ll always support you.”

Tom carries Paul with him still, as so many of us do. And if you happen by his store, and decide to go inside, you won’t find books about Senator McCarthy. What you’ll find instead are signs of Paul Wellstone. Says Tom, “I put them up when I first bought this store, so that everyone who walks in will know that they belong here.”

“I think Paul would want it that way.”