Chapter 4: What finally convinced Paul to run for public office was when he visited high schools to talk to students about politics. He would ask them to write down the first word that came to mind when they thought about politics. “Their comments were devastating,” Paul wrote. “They used words like ‘fake,’ ‘phony,’ ‘corrupt,’ ‘promises never kept,’ ‘big money.’ Rarely was there a positive comment.”

Rick Kahn: A few weeks from his re-election vote, Senator Paul Wellstone voted against the Iraq War resolution — an unpopular vote to make after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. “If he were here talking to you right now, he would urge you that anytime you face a difficult decision, if you are true to yourself then that’s the right decision to make. Even if he had lost the election because of his vote, and had not died in that plane crash, he would sit here today and say he was glad he did what he did. Say YES to being that kind of person. Paul was not born a great man. He chose the path that made him great.”

Dave Wellstone: He remembers standing, unhappily, in the cold with striking workers at a Hormel plant when he was quite young, and being told that “it is not just their fight, it is all of our fights, and this is what we do when we believe in something.” Years later, when his mother became an advocate on behalf of victims of domestic violence, he told us he was both surprised and not surprised that his mother emerged from being such a “regular” person. “Certainly my mom made my dad much better. He was as good a person and a politician as he was because my mom was there at his side.” 

Marcia Avner: Children in abusive homes often only felt safe falling asleep at school. Sheila learned they would ask to stay after school in order to stay out of the house as long as possible. “We heard from girls as young as 12. Women in their 60s. And everyone in between. In one city, we heard such heartbreaking stories I couldn’t even drive us home because we were crying so hard.”

U.S Senator Al Franken: ‘Be the Change’ often means opening yourself to new thinking – your own and that of others.

Dan Cramer: We asked about Paul’s greatest accomplishment. It probably was not a single piece of legislation that Paul helped get passed. “He talked with thousands of kids about the future. ‘That’s the most important thing I did,’ I think Paul would say.”

Wellstone Reporter Ora Battle: The interview with Mark Wellstone was my favorite. Everyone in the room went through a rollercoaster of emotions. There were times when we would all be laughing, and times when we all would be really sad, because no one felt the loss of Paul and Sheila like their son.

(For other comments from the Wellstone reporter team about their experiences with the interviews, click the Meet the Reporters page.)