Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Camp Wellstone

Until his untimely death just two weeks before the 2002 election, the elected official I most admired was Senator Paul Wellstone.

After the airplane crash that killed Paul, his wife, Sheila, their daughter, Marcia, and three campaign workers, I wondered what his surviving children, David and Mark, would do. Would they spend all of their time trying to figure out if a conspiracy of some sort was responsible for the deaths of three members of their family and three campaign workers? I saw a lot of speculation in the news about this.

I didn’t have to wait long for the answer, because early in 2003, I started to hear about Camp Wellstone. In this letter, David and Mark describe what they did and why: “Not long after our parents' tragic death in the final days of their last campaign, my brother David and I sat down here in the Twin Cities with a number of our folks' closest friends and most steadfast supporters over the years.

“We all agreed that we bore a shared responsibility to carry on their work to advance social progress and economic justice. Thus Wellstone Action! was born.”

The centerpiece was Camp Wellstone, which was being held in various locations in the Midwest in 2003. I attended the November camp in Detroit, Michigan. You can watch a six minute video which describes the Camp Wellstone experience here.

Camp Wellstone now has training sessions held all over the U.S. Jeff Blodgett is the executive director of Wellstone Action and a senior trainer at Camp Wellstone. Jeff was in charge of all three of Paul’s senatorial campaigns. In Paul’s first race in 1990, he was outspent eight to one by his Republican opponent, but had 14,000 grassroots volunteers and an old school bus painted green that he used to tour the state. If Jeff could put together a winning campaign like that, he must know something!

Wellstone Action! has a stellar group of advisors; you’ll recognize the names of many of these people.

I’ve been running into lots of discouraged people these days. The antidote to that is to check the Camp Wellstone schedule and sign up. Held on weekends, they are amazingly affordable. The weekend training program provides hands-on, practical training in grassroots politics for citizen activists, campaign workers, and people interested in running for office. Thirty-five Camp Wellstone graduates now hold elective offices. If there are no camps currently scheduled, check again later, or go to the left side of the Camp Wellstone webpage for five more programs offering training.

(logo at top – From Wellstone Action! website)

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