Friday, October 25, 2002
Like King, I found myself stunned and numb with the news of Paul Wellstones death today. My reaction surprised myself. As I've tried to reflect, and as I've listened to the non-stop media coverage, I'm beginning to realize that Wellstone represented what we all hope we can be in the arena of politics and scholary dialouge. Without exception, most of the pundits have talked about how he often was the long ranger on issues (and votes) and that many people didn't agree with his positions. But to a person, there was deep RESPECT for his INTEGRITY. Wellstone is the type of politician/scholar I would love to debate, as I would know that the debate was real....that is, based on passion, a well-thought out belief/value system, and based on mutual trust and a search for construction, rather than destruction.
In many ways Wellstone represents an excellent example of what Robert Coles called "moral leadership". Coles book, "The Lives of Moral Leadership" is a must read for anyone who is looking for inspiration on what it takes to make a difference, even when you are an n=1 (which, in many respects, characterizes Wellstone's role in the Senate). As stated on the book dust jacket, "Coles tells how to be a moral leader and shows how the intervention of one person can change the course of history, as well as influence the day-to-day quality of life in our homes, schools, communities, and nation." I think this is why King, myself, and many others across the country are reacting so emotionally to the loss of Paul Wellstone. As is often the case, we don't recognize the importance of someone until they are gone. I believe everyone who pays attention to politics and discourse in this country and on our campuses now recognizes what an important role Wellstone played. He belongs in Cole's next book as a example of a real moral leader.
Finally, on a personal note, all the attention paid to Paul Wellstone and his family may minimize the loss of the others who also perished in the crash. Unfortunately, a colleague of mine in the Dept. of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Mary McEvoy (aka, Mary Mac), who was one of the state DFL leaders, was also on the plane. Her lose is numbing and hits close to home. Although not recognized on a national level, she also represented all that constitutes a moral leader. A true scholar with a passion for politics. Today Minnesota did not lose just one important academic/scholar role model-------we lost two.
Although it is probably too soon to suggest such ideas, I would like to plant a seed. How about SCSU sponsoring a yearly series of "Wellstone" debates, where significant issues are debated on campus, and ONLY in the spirit of Wellstone's moral leadership. Not demonstrations, name calling, shouting, etc., but a serious, spirited, respectfull scholarly debate of issues. I personally would be willing to donate $500 to get this going and would challenge others to make similar donations.