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Use your vote wisely: a lesson from Minnesota
By Andy Brack
S.C. Statehouse Report

NOV. 3, 2002 - - Every now and then, something happens far away that gets your attention. Instead of forgetting it after a couple of days, it keeps rolling around in your head.

A few days ago, U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash. You may not think the death of a liberal Minnesota firebrand has lessons for everyone in South Carolina, but it does.

The one clear message that repeatedly appeared in print and sound following Wellstone's death was how much Republicans and Democrats respected the spunky fighter. They remembered how, above all else, he doggedly stuck to his fight for the little guy. Republican and Democrat, they might not often have agreed with him. But they admired his perseverance, zeal and commitment for remaining true to his ideals.

In a Washington where consistency and honor is as common as ice cubes on beaches, they recognized his consistency and honor. And they roundly agreed the Senate needed more Paul Wellstones, more people with passion to fight for what they believed in.

His remarks often recalled the words of Robert F. Kennedy. On the Senate floor, at rallies and in small gatherings, Wellstone argued time and again that the nation's leaders need to stop bickering and work together to do better for the people in our country.

"We should not focus just on how to grow our economy, but we should focus on how we can grow the quality of our lives, and how we can grow the quality of our life as a nation," he told graduates of Swarthmore College in 1998. "We must foster a new atmosphere where values become sensitive to public policy. And we must build a nation, a community where no person, no neighborhood, and no community feels left behind."

For Wellstone, politics wasn't a game. It was a vehicle for citizens to use to create a world they dared to imagine - - a world of opportunity where all Americans got a shot at the American dream.

Here's where his legacy leaves a lesson for all of us: on Tuesday, South Carolinians have a responsibility to elect leaders who imagine a world of opportunity for her children.

Instead of gauging politicians on soundbites, partisan politics or TV ads, voters should do their homework and find candidates they believe will do the best job for South Carolina. They should support candidates - - regardless of political party - - who dare to imagine what is possible. If these candidates can imagine it, they can help bring people together to achieve it.

Wellstone's death reminds South Carolinians that the best man or woman for a job may be someone of a different political party, race or sex - - someone we normally wouldn't even think voting for. But Wellstone's legacy is for us to consider the person and ideals based on what's best for the state.

As Wellstone told those young Swarthmore graduates, we create politics to help us achieve our dreams.

"The future will belong to those who have passion, and to those who are willing to make the personal commitment to make our country better. The future will belong to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams," he said.

On Tuesday, use your vote wisely. That's what Paul Wellstone taught us.

Paul Wellstone, 1944-2002. Rest in peace.

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