10 years later, Wellstone inspires young authors


Minnesota students are learning about history, not by reading a book, but by writing one. Over the past several years, seven middle schoolers have interviewed people who knew Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife Sheila, whose lives were cut short in a plane crash 10 years ago this week.

“I didn’t know who Paul Wellstone and Shelia Wellstone were before this book,” said Sophia Morrissette, one of the co-authors of “Be the Change: The Paul and Sheila Wellstone story”.

“Based on all these interviews I’ve learned what not only who they were, but what they stood for and what it means to do the right thing.”

The 84-page book will be printed on October 25, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the plane crash.

Principles over politics

As the students interviewed Wellstone’s family and friends, they learned Senator Wellstone put principles and people over politics.

David Wellstone, Paul and Sheila’s son, told the students that his father made the difficult decision to vote against the Iraq war. “He told me shortly before that he would lose the election most likely because of it. So he understood that you just do what you believe.”

Researching Wellstone’s life changed how Xavier Mansfield looks at the world. “It made me believe that there are people in the world that can make a difference and aren’t self-centered and care about the community and the world.”

Co-author Siena Milbauer couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast between how Wellstone campaigned and today’s constant barrage of negative campaign ads. “It’s nice to see someone that just campaigned to say that he was good instead of saying his opponent was bad… and won on his own merits.”

Ethan Davenport found Wellstone to be more authentic than those seeking political office today. “Politics now… just everyone now is so big and showy. It just seems almost fake. And he was a lot more real. He was like a real person. A regular guy.”

Students Maya Knutson, Avinash Patel and Ora Battle also helped with the interviews and writing.

To get the book done in time, the students split up writing the chapters which covered how Paul Wellstone got started in politics as well as his work on mental health legislation and how Sheila Wellstone advocated against domestic violence. Author Mikki Morrissette, who happens to be the mother of one of the students, served as the editor.