Friday, October 26, 2007

Remembering Paul Wellstone

Yesterday was the 5 year anniversary of the tragic loss of Senator Wellstone and others during the 2002 campaign. I am struck by the outpouring of tribute for him from many places, but not surprised. I met the Senator briefly and unexpectedly once while on a visit to Washington DC with a couple of medical colleagues. As frequently occurs in July and August, storms through the Midwest delayed our departure and we were stuck waiting for a few extra hours at Reagan National Airport. My friend John has a pass to the Northwest Lounge which allowed us to be his guests. As we checked in I noticed someone on the pay telephone just inside the entrance who looked familiar. I looked at him longer than I might have otherwise and he kept smiling while he continued his conversation and waved at me as if he knew me. It was clear that he knew I recognized him. I waved back and moved on to take a seat. It was a few minutes later that I became aware that this was our Senator. Others were in the lounge too – Tom Daschle among them. We eventually boarded the plane and I noticed how congenial the Senator from Minnesota was to everyone on this flight to MSP – he walked through a portion of the plane and shook hands and talked to many people. About a year ago, I spoke with one of his academic colleagues about him and the tragedy. He told me stories of his early campaigns - a man full of energy and determination. I may not have agreed with many of the Senator's positions but that isn't really what I remember about him – nor is it the most important. I remember that he appeared to have no preconceived notions about individuals when he met them and that he greeted strangers and constituents warmly.