Activist Seminars Continue Late US Senator's Legacy
At the height of the 2002 U.S. election campaign, the Democratic Senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone, was killed in an air crash, along with his wife, daughter and three aides. The politician's legacy of activism continues through training programs that teach people how to achieve change through politics.
Paul Wellstone was a progressive populist who represented what he called the "democratic" wing of the Democratic Party. Seeking to voice the concerns of ordinary people, he fought for a higher minimum wage, stronger environmental protections, and more rigorous ethics rules in politics. A former college professor, he had scored an upset victory in the 1990 election in Minnesota, and was ahead in the polls as he ran for his third term in office.
Pam Costain is a former student of Mr. Wellstone, who also worked on his political campaigns. She is now training director for an organization that carries on the legacy of the late politician and his wife, Sheila.
Pam Costain: When we lost the two of them, and their daughter, the two surviving sons got together with colleagues and close associates of the Wellstones for many years and said, ‘What can we do to make this tragedy not so tragic by carrying on the work that Paul and Sheila did?’
The result was "Wellstone Action!" an organization that trains people around the United States in what it calls "citizen activism." Ms. Costain says the effort is based on the belief that, in a democracy, everyone counts.
Pam Costain: But people, in order to participate, need skills, they need to know how to do it. They need to know how to organize on their issues, how to have a message that communicates with the broader public, how to get volunteers involved, all the kind of skills which come with many years of organizing.
A recent three-day forum in Los Angeles helped more than 100 people hone their political skills. The training program, like others the organization conducts around the country, is called "Camp Wellstone." Some lectures are aimed at people concerned with specific issues, such as cleaning up a nearby river. Other lectures give participants the skills they need to work as political organizers, or to help them launch campaigns as candidates.
Topics include fundraising, canvassing, and crafting a so-called stump speech, as well as using technology to spread a message.
Some participants are already politically active. Hai Minh is a community activist and Democratic Party campaigner from Portland, Oregon.
Hai Minh: I’m here because this is a great opportunity to learn some leadership skills and strategies. And Paul Wellstone was a very inspirational and motivational person, and so I think I can learn a lot from that this weekend.
Dae Yoon is a Korean American from Los Angeles, who wants to organize his community around specific issues.
Dae Yoon: Immigration and housing and civil liberties, things like that…
For Debbie Evans of Claremont, California, politics is a way of achieving change. She has worked on political campaigns for the Democratic Party.
Debbie Evans: Anything to facilitate change is what I'm here for, I've been working on campaigns for a long, long time, so that's what I'm doing.
William Renderos studied political science in college. He was born in El Salvador, and moved to the United States at the age of 12. After a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, he began working as an Internet web developer. He says he is passionate about politics, and wants to learn more about it.
William Renderos: Well, I am very concerned that a lot of citizens, at least a lot of the citizens that I'm in contact with on a regular basis, they don't really seem to follow politics that much. They don't really seem to be very aware or active on civic duties, I want to inform myself so that I can hopefully motivate some of my fellow citizens and neighbors.
A young man named Darshan, who lives in Los Angeles, says through watching last year's election, he developed an interest in U.S. government policy.
Darshan: I'm thinking about perhaps some studies in international relations, or public policy. So I thought this would be a good way to get information. I've also thought about working with some candidates, too, so this is a great way to learn about all that at once.
Camp Wellstone is open to people of all parties and persuasions, although most who come are Democrats, political independents or members of leftist parties like the Greens.
Training director Pam Costain says people concerned about their community should run for a seat on their local school board or their city council, or mobilize their neighbors to get active on an issue.
Camp Wellstone helps them do that. Sessions were held in 26 U.S. states last year and provided political skills to over seven thousand people. Nineteen graduates now hold public office, most serving on city councils or in state legislatures.
Mike O'Sullivan, VOA news, Los Angeles.
Minnesota [7mini5sEutE] n. 明尼苏达州（美国州名）
Populist [5pCpjulist] n.（美国的）人民党党员
minimum wage 最低工资
rigorous [5ri^ErEs] adj. 严格的，严厉的
forum [5fC:rEm] n. 讨论会
clean up 打扫干净
participant [pB:5tisipEnt] n. 参与者
stump speech 政治演说
stint [stint] n. 限制
passionate [5pAFEnit] adj. 充满热情的
leftist [5leftist] adj. 左派的