Oct 25 2007
Five years have passed since we lost our distinguished colleague, Senator Paul Wellstone, in a tragic plane crash.
That crash also took the lives of his wife, Sheila, their daughter, Marcia, three loyal staffers, and two pilots.
That sad day the Senate lost a passionate, gifted, and respected colleague and friend.
Paul was a political science professor, with a sharply honed intellect. But his heart was as big as his mind, and he was a committed advocate for the less-fortunate.
He was elected in 1990, and quickly became a strong, crusading voice in the Senate.
Paul fought for increased education funding. For improvements in the minimum wage. For affordable, accessible health care. For campaign finance reform. For legislation to protect small farmers. And for legislation to expand insurance coverage for the mentally ill.
Paul helped lead the successful opposition to an energy bill in 1991 that would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.
Paul was a champion of the dispossessed around the world – in Latin America, in Africa, and in Asia.
In 1996, when I voiced concern over the treatment of women and girls by the Taliban, Paul was one of the few open to the idea that the United States should do something.
In 1999, Paul and I introduced the “International Trafficking of Women and Children Victims Protection Act,” to address these heinous crimes, and to hold to account nations that fail to meet minimum international standards.
Paul cared deeply about Tibetan autonomy. The last time we worked together was to co-sponsor legislation to encourage dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government -- and to protect the identity of the people of Tibet.
He would have been pleased to see the Congressional Gold Medal – the nation’s highest civilian honor – awarded to the Dalai Lama earlier this month.
Paul was eloquent. He was compassionate. And he is missed. I feel honored to have been his friend and colleague. I will never forget him, and the United States Senate is better for his service.