An open letter from a friend.
Hard to believe you've been gone 10 years, and we still miss you. You still have more bumper stickers on Minnesota cars than any active politician.
We miss your passion to help people who are hurting. People suffering the ravages of mental illness, addiction, homelessness and hunger. We miss our champion for veterans, seniors, abused women and children. Most of all, we miss the authentic person you were. You never took yourself too seriously, but you took the causes you championed very seriously.
Even when I didn't agree with you, I always knew where you stood. You didn't need polls or focus groups, because you made decisions based on principles. That's why you earned the affection and support of Minnesotans and the respect of our colleagues in Washington. That's why they called you "the conscience of the Senate."
Working with you for seven years on the Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Parity Act was an experience I will never forget. (Yes, President George W. Bush signed our bill into law in October 2008, and even he had nice things to say about you!) Thanks largely to your efforts in writing the original legislation, more than 100 million people will have greater access to treatment.
I'm glad I got to know you, Paul, as more than just a colleague. Grateful I got to know you as a true friend. Guess we proved Harry Truman wrong when he said, "If you want a friend in Washington, you have to get a dog."
I also miss working with Sheila and your dedicated staff. Nobody worked harder than Sheila to pass the Violence Against Women Act. Too bad that bipartisanship has become a dirty word in Washington.
I will always remember our joint appearances in Minnesota before various groups. You would invariably insist on speaking after me so you could exclaim, "Ramstad, I love you like a brother, but how can you be so wrong?" And then came the notorious Wellstone slap across the back that cracked everybody up, as well as my vertebrae!
Paul, you might be gone, but you are not forgotten. Your sons, Dave and Mark, and your faithful followers at Wellstone Action are carrying forth your legacy. You would have been a very proud dad seeing Dave testify for the parity bill before your former Senate colleagues. Dave showed the same passion, tenacity and eloquence that characterized your service.
May your great spirit continue to live in the hearts of all of us.
Ramstad, a Republican, represented Minnesota's Third District in the U.S. House for 18 years. U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, his wife, Sheila, and six others were killed in a plane crash on Oct. 25, 2002.