"While we all still mourn the loss of Paul, Sheila and the others on the plane that October day, the symposium gave us a good chance to reflect on their work to celebrate their many contributions, to ask about their significance personally and politically, and the begin exploring the roads ahead," said Eric Fure-Slocum, a visiting Assistant Professor of History at St. Olaf, and one of the members of the initial planning committee for the symposium.
With more than 25 events, including panel discussions, workshops and open-microphone sessions, the symposium offered an opportunity for all in attendance to share their memories about Paul and Sheila Wellstone.
"[The symposium] brought together people united around an idea---that politics matters (as the ancient Greeks argued) and that it represents some of the best in all of us," said Roy Grow, professor of political science at Carleton College.
While the symposium featured many of Wellstones accomplishments in the political arena, it also highlighted his work as an educator. Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate in 1990, Wellstone taught political science at Carleton College, and during the symposium he was remembered by his former students as a man who had a passion for teaching about politics.
"Paul taught that politics were about peoples lives," said Lee Roderick Blons, one of Wellstones former students, during a panel discussion entitled ¨Wellstone´s Mentoring and Teaching: Alumni and Teachers.¨
Wellstone was remembered as a man with a genuine interest in the well-being of others; as someone who used his post in the Senate to help address the concerns of fellow Minnesotans.
"Paul and Sheila were different sort of politicians. Those who knew Paul understood the tremendous following he had in this state not just among students, but also with farmers, powerline people. People remembered Paul, but more importantly, he remembered them, and could call each of them by name some 10 years later. Paul got strength and energy from people--it was who he was not an act for the cameras," said Grow.
Indeed, Grow remembers that Wellstone not only worked hard to serve the people of Minnesota, but also was passionate about speaking out for those causes that he believed in, such as the rights of workers and farmers in this state.
"There was probably not a farm protest, a Hormel strike rally, or any other event that Paul missed," said Grow.
Whether he was remembered as an activist, educator, or politician, the symposium gave individuals an opportunity to recognize the many contributions of Wellstone and his wife Sheila, but Grow feels that the event succeeded in another aspect as well.
"Our goals were the obvious: a tribute to Paul, and to provide some energy to carry it on. But over the course of the weekend, I noticed a deep sort closure coming to all of us. It had an unintended therapeutic effect," said Grow.
Indeed, the events of the weekend helped to honor the lives of the Wellstones. Participants of the symposium felt that, even after the event, the spirit of the Wellstones will remain alive through the work of others.
As Susan Singer, a professor of biology at Carleton, said during "Wellstones Mentoring and Teaching: Alumni and Teachers," one of the many panel discussions held throughout the weekend, "Im very, very optimistic seeing everyone on campus that Pauls legacy has spread so widely that we cant help but carry things forward.