Here is the rationale for the Congressional Living Memorial being Neighborhood House as I prepared for submission. I thought it is important for you to have this for your archives. The whole design of the Wellstone Center was based on the theme of "embrace" the immigrant and refugee communities.
Rationale: Neighborhood House was founded by the women of Mount Zion Temple in the 1880’s as a settlement house, helping newly arrived Eastern European Jewish immigrants to establish a new life and thrive in their new community. Senator Wellstone always had a genuine affinity for Neighborhood House, as his own family were Russian Jewish immigrants themselves. But his affinity reached far beyond this personal link: Neighborhood House truly embodies everything that Paul Wellstone fought for his whole life – that all people, no matter their background or economic status or country of origin or race or creed, would have a fair shake at life, and an opportunity to belong to and enrich their community.
Senator Paul Wellstone was more than a representative to the people of Neighborhood House. He was the voice in Washington for those who had no voice, and he worked hard to empower them in their local communities and give them hope.
“Senator Paul,” as he was referred to by many Hmong participants at Neighborhood House, was viewed as a “father” and “champion” of the Hmong people. Wellstone had an enormous impact on their lives. It was the participants of Neighborhood House’s Hmong Unity group who, in 1997, invited Senator Wellstone and Congressman Vento to Neighborhood House to hear their concerns about the plight of the Hmong in the United States. As a result of that meeting, Wellstone and Vento went on to achieve the passage of the Hmong Veterans Act into law in 2000. Nearly 100% of the participants of Hmong Unity became United States citizens because of that legislation, and in 2002 they proudly changed their name to Hmong American Unity. Senator Wellstone showed them that they had the power to advocate for themselves, exercise their precious freedom, and make their community and their adopted country better for everyone.
Senator Wellstone came every year to the Freedom Festival at Neighborhood House to honor the new American citizens from the Hmong, Latino and other communities. There was no press there – it was never about PR for Paul – but it was something he believed in very strongly.
Indeed, the Wellstone family was very committed to Neighborhood House. Just two weeks before their deaths, Senator Wellstone sent his daughter Marcia to tour Neighborhood House and talk with staff about important issues for our community. In addition, Sheila Wellstone’s championing of women’s issues is embodied in Neighborhood House programs such as Hispanic Women in Action, a cultural empowerment group that enables women to retain their culture while learning a new one, address challenging family issues, and develop into leaders not only for their families but also their community.
Upon learning of the inability for Neighborhood House to meet community needs in the current facility, it was Senator Wellstone himself who suggested to Neighborhood House President Dan Hoxworth that Neighborhood House put in a request for a federal appropriation for our badly needed new facility. He was extremely committed to getting the project through, and he did all he could to gain the support of his colleagues in Washington.
Paul and Sheila Wellstone loved St. Paul; he had his campaign headquarters in St. Paul; they lived in St. Paul and walked the neighborhoods of St. Paul to get to really know and understand the people. To honor them in St. Paul – through the organization that settled St. Paul, gave her so many dedicated leaders, and continues to do so today – is a fitting tribute to their legacy that lives on.