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What Wellstone's friends could accomplish with him, they can do without him

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Rick Kahn
Rick Kahn works in the acquisition and operation of rental housing properties. He serves on the board of Wellstone Action, and continues to be actively involved as a volunteer in political campaigns.
Courtesy of Rick Kahn

By Rick Kahn

Rick Kahn works in the acquisition and operation of rental housing properties. He serves on the board of Wellstone Action, and continues to be actively involved as a volunteer in political campaigns. He was among the speakers at the Wellstone memorial service Oct. 30, 2002.

In the spring of 1989, I was one of a small group Paul Wellstone gathered for a series of meetings to discuss the possibility of his running for the U.S Senate against Rudy Boschwitz the following year. No one of us, Paul included, could then have imagined a bigger, harder hill to climb.

Boschwitz was a two-term incumbent, with a job approval rating consistently above 60 percent, already holding a financial war chest that would dwarf anything we could bring in. And while we all had some political experience, as a group we had no real power, no real influence and no money.

The folks who decree the conventional wisdom, underwhelmed by what we brought to the table, said Paul had two chances of beating Boschwitz in 1990: not slim and none, but zero and none. Honestly, none of us were optimistic about winning this race if Paul did choose to run. 

Then why would we take this on? We all signed up with determination and resolve because of one indispensable foundation to everything that subsequently happened: Paul inspired all of us to believe that it was possible to win, to believe that we could make that which was possible more possible by giving it our very best efforts, and to believe that what was possible was not just winning an election, but improving people's lives and making this a better world.

It was this group of people Paul was thinking about when he wrote: "Every campaign, to be successful, has to start out with a circle of people who believe."

He believed, and we believed, in the words Paul spoke over and over again:

That politics is what we create by what we do, what we hope for, and what we dare to imagine.

That we should never separate the lives we live from the words we speak; we must act on what we believe in.

That sometimes, the only realists are the dreamers.

That we all do better when we all do better.

That the future will not belong to those who are content with the present.

That the future will not belong to those who are cynical, or those who stand on the sidelines.

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

That the future will belong to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

And now it is 10 years down the road. In that span, I have often heard people say "If only Paul were here today," or "How different things would be right now, if Paul was still here." We can only speculate about how different things would be, but I think we need to answer a different question. The real question is whether that which was possible with Paul, is still possible without him. 

Let there never be any doubt: Paul's own answer to that question would be yes, it is all still possible. 

He'd say, it is still possible if you are still willing, today, to act on what you believe in. If you are still willing to dare to imagine. If you are still willing to pour your own passion, heart and soul into improving people's lives and making this a better world. If you are still willing to believe in the beauty of your dreams. Yes, it is all still possible, and now it is up to you to make it happen.