The Wellstone Award is given annually to a legislator at the federal, state, or local level who
has provided progressive leadership in addressing important issues of social justice and public health.
This year's co-recipients: US Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Congressman Barney Frank
Past recipients of the Wellstone Award include:
Honorable Edward M. Kennedy 2007
Sheila James Kuehl 2008
Congressman Eric Massa 2009
Senator Bernie Sanders 2010
Paul Wellstone Award
Political Science Professor, Activist, U.S. Senator
1944 – 2002
Paul David Wellstone, Minnesota's senior senator, was born to Russian immigrants Leon and Minnie Wellstone on July 21, 1944. In 1965, Paul earned his B.A., and four years later was awarded a Ph.D. in Political Science. Soon he accepted a teaching post at Carleton College in Northfield, MN where he taught for 21 years. In 1990, underdog Senate candidate Paul Wellstone rallied a dynamic volunteer force and traveled throughout Minnesota in his trademark green bus to meet Minnesotans. On election day, he was the only Senate challenger that year to unseat an incumbent.
During his first Senate term, Wellstone led legislative battles to make health care more accessible and affordable, and won workers protection to take time from work to care for their families without losing their jobs. He helped raise the minimum wage, successfully fought to protect seniors' pension funds from corporate raiders, and authored historic ethics and lobbying reform measures that forever changed how the people's business is done on Capitol Hill. Wellstone fought for expanded health care coverage for those suffering from mental illness, worked with a bipartisan coalition to write a new farm bill, and blocked harsh bankruptcy reforms unfair to consumers as well as efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. He has fought for and secured federal resources for Minnesota schools, and worked tirelessly on behalf of veterans, passing legislation to aid homeless veterans and securing compensation for "atomic veterans" suffering from cancers due to radiation exposure during their military service. He was a leader in efforts to combat violence against women. In 2000, Wellstone joined with Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) to pass historic bipartisan legislation to prevent international sex trafficking of women and girls, establishing first-ever penalties for those who enslave and traffic in persons.
Wellstone was opposed to the first Gulf War in 1991 and, in the months before his death, spoke out against the government's threats to go to war with Iraq again. He was strongly supported by groups such as Americans for Democratic Action, the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club, the ACLU, and People for the American Way. Senator Wellstone was tragically killed in a plane crash in 2002 with his wife Sheila and daughter Marcia. His sons, David and Mark, co-chair Wellstone Action, a nonprofit organization that trains progressive citizens and potential candidates for public office in how to win elections, enact legislation, and pass ballot initiatives.
“There is an aspiration that binds us. It is the dream of justice for a beloved community. It is the belief that extremes and excesses of inequality must be reduced so that each person is free to develop his or her full potential.”
Former Congressman Barney Frank
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren