What a Difference a Decade Makes

June 11, 2013

By now you know that we’re celebrating Camp Wellstone’s 10th birthday. It’s true, it was the late spring of 2003 that, in partnership with the good folks at Grassroots Solutions, we held our very first Camp Wellstone.

The curriculum that we taught at that first Camp Wellstone was thanks in no small part to the hard work of Grassroots Solutions’ Sally Miller. Miller, a veteran of Senator Wellstone’s 1996 campaign, put together a book on progressive organizing that Wellstone Action used to create its initial curriculum.

In fact, while 2003 marked the first Camp Wellstone from Wellstone Action, two years earlier, Miller helped the Wellstone Campaign run a “Camp Wellstone” that promoted the campaign’s goal to identify good potential staff and volunteers and empower them with a new set of progressive organizing skills. Miller explained, “The goal was to build a culture to make better community activists because people aren’t given the time and tools to hone their skills. We wanted a compressive approach.”  The curriculum that was built for Wellstone Action’s first camp in 2003 was, in fact, borrowed in part from that campaign-sponsored camp.

Miller’s journey with the Wellstone community, however, started well before that first Camp in December of 2001. After college in the mid-1990s, Sally joined the D.C. staff of Senator Paul Wellstone. By the time the 1996 campaign rolled around, she was recruited to join the field team back in her home state of Minnesota. By the summer, the campaign was looking for a person with a Class-C drivers license who could drive the big green bus. Miller nominated her dad, a retired school teacher, “I said he’d love to do it. And he did. My mom even made curtains for the bus!”

By 2003, Miller moved out of Minnesota to work with SEIU. But her connection to Wellstone Action didn’t end. “SEIU International had a contract with Wellstone, which I was a big proponent of,” said Miller, “So when I was the Southern Political Director for SEIU, I worked with Wellstone Action all the time for labor trainings. The members loved getting that outside perspective, especially in the grassroots model that Wellstone Action leads trainings with. It was fun to be a part of those training events.”

Ten years later, back in Minnesota and back at Grassroots Solutions, Sally just helped lead her first Camp Wellstone in 10 years.  Said Sally, “The energy was really amazing. It sustained itself throughout the weekend. People were there for a special reason and it’s nice to feel like part of something productive and impactful for the progressive movement.”

What’s changed since?

"Camp is more clear, advanced, articulate, and interactive; it just feels smoother than it did 10 years ago. But the core is the same: Camp Wellstone is about training to build ongoing and sustainable movement that doesn’t end on Election Day. Thanks to Wellstone Action, the progressive movement doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel every election cycle." - Sally Miller

We’re proud of our history and we’re proud of how we’ve grown. And this is just the start; imagine how far we’ll go over the next 10 years!