A Tribute to Sen. Paul Wellstone And His Commitment to FairnessPosted 1/14/2003
By Sen. Byron Dorgan
Sen. Paul Wellstone died Oct. 25, 2002, in the midst of campaigning throughout Minnesota for another term in the U.S. Senate. It was a tough campaign, a close campaign, a hard-fought campaign. Yet, Paul Wellstone never complained about that. He seemed to relish it.
For Paul Wellstone, it was always about citizen action, about people rising to the passion of an idea. That was typical Paul Wellstone.
In the last couple of months, Paul came up to me while we were in the well of the Senate, and said: "I was campaigning in Minnesota and I went to an independent auto repair shop. The major automobile manufacturers will not give the computer codes to these independent auto repair shops, so these small independents are telling me they cannot work on the new cars."
He said: "That is unfair and it is going to drive those folks out of business. This is going to kill the little guy."
He asked if I would hold a hearing on the issue in my Consumer Affairs Subcommittee. I said of course I would. We put together some information on it.
The day of the hearing came and Paul was to be the lead witness, but that was not enough for him. As was his way in politics, he had made sure the hearing room was packed, full of mechanics and independent repair shop owners from all across this country. That hearing room probably holds 100 people and I'd say there were 150 people there. Paul had brought his people, the independent repair shop folks, to that hearing room as a demonstration of this problem, to say this problem ought to be fixed.
Paul was the lead witness and with great passion he made the case about the unfairness to the little guy, about the independent repair shops trying to stay in business, and how what is happening is unfair to them.
Several weeks ago, right before we completed our work and left for the election, Paul came up to me on the floor of the Senate during a vote. He was holding a sheet of paper. He was flashing this paper and saying: "We won!" His point was that the automobile manufacturers had reached an agreement with the independent repair shops, and that the problem had been solved.
For Paul, it was about the little guy versus the big guy, about those who did not have the power versus those who did. He always wanted to stand on the side of those who did not have the power, those who needed help. That was so much of Paul Wellstone's life.
Paul Wellstone is no longer in the Senate. His desk is empty. But the passion of his ideas most surely will remain for years and years to come.
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