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Americans Who Tell the Truth

Paul Wellstone

Appointed and Elected Public Figures

Paul Wellstone

Political Science Professor, Activist, U.S. Senator (1944 – 2002)

There is an aspiration that binds us. It is the dream of justice for a beloved community. It is the belief that extremes and excesses of inequality must be reduced so that each person is free to develop his or her full potential.


Additional Quotes by Paul Wellstone

A politics that is not sensitive to the concerns and circumstances of people's lives, a politics that does not speak to and include people, is an intellectually arrogant politics that deserves to fail.

Above and beyond the question of how to grow the economy there is a legitimate concern about how to grow the quality of our lives.

As free citizens in a political democracy, we have a responsibility to be interested and involved in the affairs of the human community, be it at the local or the global level.

Education and democracy have the same goal: the fullest possible development of human capabilities.

I don't think politics has anything to do with left, right, or center. It has to do with trying to do right by people.

I emphasize self-esteem, self-confidence, and dignity, not as an ideal, but as a real test of community organization. Without leadership development, community organizations do not have staying power.

I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.

I saw as a teacher how, if you take that spark of learning that those children have, and you ignite it, you can take a child from any background to a lifetime of creativity and accomplishment.

I think the future also will not belong to those who are cynical or those who stand on the sidelines.

I was talking about no nukes, the farm crisis. People said that wasn't stuff that a state auditor was supposed to be talking about. Maybe they were right.

I'm short, I'm Jewish and I'm a liberal.

If a teacher does not involve himself, his values, his commitments, in the course of discussion, why should the students?

If we don't fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don't really stand for them.

It is the belief that extremes and excesses of inequality must be reduced so that each person is free to fully develop his or her full potential. This is why we take precious time out of our lives and give it to politics.

Never separate the life you live from the words you speak.

Our aims in political activism are not, and should not be, to create a perfect utopia.

Our politics are our deepest form of expression: they mirror our past experiences and reflect our dreams and aspirations for the future.

Politics is about the improvement of people's lives. It's about advancing the cause of peace and justice in our country and the world. Politics is about doing well for the people.

Politics is not about money.

Politics is not about power.

Politics is not predictions and politics is not observations. Politics is what we do. Politics is what we do, politics is what we create, by what we work for, by what we hope for and what we dare to imagine.

Politics isn't about big money or power games; it's about the improvement of people's lives.

Sometimes, the only realists are the dreamers.

Successful organizing is based on the recognition that people get organized because they, too, have a vision.

The American polity is infected with a serious imbalance of power between elites and masses, a power which is the principal threat to our democracy.

The first task in teaching is to bring to consciousness what the students already believe by virtue of their personal experiences about themselves and society.

The future will belong to those who have passion and are willing to work hard to make our country better.

The idea of democracy has been stripped of it moral imperatives and come to denote hollowness and hypocrisy.

The kind of national goal we ought to be thinking about is way beyond national product - it is how do we as a nation help our children be the best kinds of people they could possibly be?

The only way to change is to vote. People are responsible.

The people of this country, not special interest big money, should be the source of all political power.

There are three critical ingredients to democratic renewal and progressive change in America: good public policy, grassroots organizing and electoral politics.

There is a major ingredient missing from our perception of how changes are brought about; that ingredient is power.

We can and must move U.S. politics forward by means of committed participation.

We can remake the world daily.

What makes community organizing especially attractive is the faith it places in the ability of the poor to make decisions for themselves.

What the poor, the weak, and the inarticulate desperately require is power, organization, and a sense of identity and purpose, not rarefied advice of political scientists.

When too many Americans don't vote or participate, some see apathy and despair. I see disappointment and even outrage. And I believe that out of this frustration can come hope and action.

Why don't we call on the credit card companies to be accountable? They need to be held accountable for their predatory lending practices.



Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash with his wife Sheila and daughter Marcia while campaigning for his third term as U.S. Senator from Minnesota. One of the most progressive voices in the Senate, he was for affordable health care, strict environment protection, campaign finance reform, raising the minimum wage, arms control, veterans’ benefits, gay rights, and protecting Social Security and Medicare from privatization. He was opposed to extravagant expenditures on weapons. He voted against the Iraq War resolution shortly before his death.

Wellstone was born July 21, 1944, the son of immigrant Russian Jews. He grew up in Virginia and went on a scholarship to the University of North Carolina where he was a champion wrestler and earned a B.A. and Ph. D. in political science. In 1970 he began teaching at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, while continuing as a political activist. He protested the Vietnam War, mobilized welfare mothers, organized for nuclear disarmament, and was arrested sitting in at a bank that had foreclosed on local farmers. In 1990 Wellstone ran a liberal, populist campaign for Senator, winning against an incumbent.

Wellstone said, “Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives.”



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