Carleton College Celebrates the Legacy of Senator Paul Wellstone

U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone

The Carleton College community lost one of its most cherished members, former political science professor and U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, in a plane crash ten years ago. Carleton will host a series of events on Oct. 25, the tenth anniversary of Wellstone’s death, to commemorate his life, honor his tenure as a Carleton professor, and celebrate his legacy of civic engagement that continues with today’s Carleton  students.

“Celebrating the Legacy of Paul Wellstone” begins at 12 p.m. in the Skinner Memorial Chapel with opening remarks from Carleton chaplain Carolyn Fure-Slocum ’82. The keynote address will be presented by Jeff Blodgett ’83, founder and former executive director of Wellstone Action, a national center for training, capacity building and leader development for people and organizations involved in politics and public life. Blodgett, who is currently the Minnesota director for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign (a position he also held in 2008), was a senior Wellstone aide, advisor and campaign manager for 13 years. Blodgett ran all three of Wellstone’s campaigns, including the 2002 race cut short by Wellstone’s death only 12 days before the election.

Blodgett has 28 years of experience in community organizing, issue advocacy and political management. He also created Faces and Voices of Recovery, a national effort to bring the recovery community into the public debate about drug and alcohol addiction and recovery. He has a BA from Carleton College and a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and is on the faculty of the Masters of Advocacy and Political Leadership program at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Blodgett is the author of Politics the Wellstone Way (University of Minnesota Press, 2005) and Winning Your Election the Wellstone Way (University of Minnesota Press, 2008).


Blodgett will sign copies of his books at the conclusion of his presentation, which is free and open to the public. Copies of Blodgett’s books will be available for purchase at the event at a 15% discount. Additionally, copies of “12 Years and 13 Days” (University of Minnesota Press, 2003), a photographic collection with essay by Blodgett, and Wellstone’s own books, “The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming the Compassionate Agenda”(University of Minnesota Press, 2002), “Powerline: The First Battle of America’s Energy War” (University of Minnesota Press, 2003) and “How the Rural Poor Got Power” (University of Minnesota Press, 2003), which details Wellstone’s organizing work in Rice County in the 1970s, will be available for purchase.


The Carleton Bookstore is also pleased to offer copies of Paul “David” Wellstone Jr.’s recently published memoir, “Becoming Wellstone: Healing from Tragedy and Carrying on My Father’s Legacy” (Hazelden, 2012).


In addition to Blodgett’s appearance, Carleton’s Gould Library will feature a display of Wellstone-related books and print materials, created with the assistance of students living in the Wellstone House of Activism (an off-campus interest house dedicated to maintaining Wellstone’s legacy of civic engagement). The College will also host a dinner honoring Carleton students who have been awarded service-related fellowships and internships in the past year. The dinner will be followed by a poster session where students will share their experiences. Wellstone was committed to getting students engaged in the community, and a Carleton fund named in his honor is used to support social justice internships.


A Virginia native and University of North Carolina graduate, Paul Wellstone began teaching at Carleton in 1969 at the age of 24 and immediately began to focus on social justice and civic engagement. Wellstone became deeply involved in campus activism, organizing protests and speaking out on local issues, including significant criticism of the Carleton administration. Though often a controversial figure, Wellstone was generally well-liked by his students, many of whom went on to work in politics (some for Wellstone himself). After an unsuccessful run for state auditor in 1982, Wellstone won a stunning upset victory in the 1990 U.S. Senate race, defeating Republican incumbent Rudy Boschwitz despite Boschwitz’s considerable advantage in financial resources and name recognition. Wellstone became one of the most outspoken liberals in Congress and gradually became known as one of the more effective senators due to his dedication and personal charm, which helped him build relationships with colleagues who nearly always disagreed with him. Besides his nationally recognized work on mental health issues, Wellstone authored legislation limiting the influence of lobbyists in the Senate and advocated for health care reform, environmental protection and other priorities. On October 25, 2002, in the midst of a tight race for a third term in the Senate, Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila, their daughter Marcia and three campaign staffers were killed when their plane crashed en route to a campaign event in northern Minnesota.


For more information about these events, including disability accommodations, contact the Carleton College Office of College Relations at (507) 222-4308. The Skinner Memorial Chapel is located on First Street between College and Winona Streets in Northfield.