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.
I did not ever have the honor of meeting Paul or Sheila, but I must say Senator Wellstone was an inspiration to me as I began my career in public policy. When I found out there was a training program to help candidates run for office, I instantly knew there was no other campaign that I would want to model my own after than his.
I moved to Minnesota in 1983 and I was married in 1984. For a long time, I thought my life was about carpooling to work with my husband every day, collecting a paycheck to help support our family while raising our children together; thinking that someday I would retire when my boss retired. My professional life came to a sudden stop after I was wrongfully fired from my job in 1995. Shortly after my devastating experience, Senator Paul Wellstone came into my life by sending me a letter indicating that he was furious about people like me not participating in politics.
I went for training several years ago. It was invaluable for me to get the courage together to run for office. My only contact with Paul Wellstone was a letter I wrote him shortly after he won the first time. I am an artist/hairstylist living and working in Hibbing, which is in Northern Minnesota's Iron Range. Paul had made the paper because a hairstylist in the cities area told him that he was a senator now and should have a professional cut his hair instead of having his wife Sheila cut it. They made a big to do about it and how much it cost etc. I wrote him and told him he should come to Hibbing and have me cut his hair because it was quite a bit cheaper. I think my salon was charging about seven dollars for a cut at the time. I also told him that I appreciated his courage for standing up for peace. He was the only senator in Washington at the time with the guts to stand up and be against the war in the gulf.
I was an intern on the Paul Wellstone Campaign in 2002. At the time I was a new mother, working full time and trying to finish my college degree. I was so lucky to work for a Senator like Paul, who didn't always do the popular thing, but always did the right thing. Along with everyone else who worked on that campaign and his constituents, you always knew where he stood. I thank him for being my progressive mentor, and think of Paul often when I need a moral/political compass. I am now living in the wonderful progressive city of Durham, North Carolina. I believe my work would do Paul and Shelia proud. I'm working as an organizer for a progressive community based organization that fights for social and economic justice.
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.
Paul never lost touch with regular people. He always remembered the names of our children and asked how they were doing. It wasn't a formality. He deeply cared about our families and knew that he had a responsibility to work for bettering regular people's lives. Paul rarely took vacations. One year, a family vacation was planned on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Paul talked about it for weeks. I saw him a few days before his vacation and wished him a happy time. He looked in my eyes and said that he was headed to the Red River Valley instead, as the flood victims needed his attention more than he needed a vacation.