By Kim S. Hwang
AAP staff writer
MINNEAPOLIS (Oct. 5, 2012) — On a late Friday afternoon the meeting at U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s 5th Congressional District re-election campaign office, work came to an end around 5:15 p.m.
While some Minneapolis residents were ready to wind down from a long work-week, the campaign workers were getting ramped up for the home stretch. The energy in the building resembled the excitement of a Vikings NFL Monday Night Football Game. The room was buzzing with excitement, planning, and conversations.
One of the campaign workers cut out the number, “39” from blue construction paper and glued it onto an 11” x 8”, white piece of paper to represent how many days were left before the November 6th, 2012 national election. The symbol of days, along with the framed photo of Ellison and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone hung nearby.
The photo resonates at this tenth anniversary of Wellstone’s tragic death on Oct. 25, 2002. Wellstone is embracing Ellison in the photo. It is displayed at campaign headquarters on Franklin Avenue, to motivate and ignite Ellison and his staff.
I asked the Congressman to tell me about the photo and Ellison recalled his first meeting Wellstone in 1990 at a community event in Theodore Wirth Park. It was Wellstone who approached the future senator and asked him what he thought about a policy.
Who would have thought that at age 24 years old, young Ellison, a law student at the University of Minnesota, would later carry out the legacy of a politician that both Republicans and Democrats came to admire? Who would have known that while walking across that Minneapolis park, that a young Ellison would one day himself champion those issues around fair housing, the environment and systematic issues regarding human rights? Who would have known that Senator Wellstone would one day endorse Ellison in his own political journey as a Congressman in Minneapolis?
The photo, bumper stickers and Democratic literature, all served to motivate campaign workers, Matt Roznowski (the Communications Director), and the Congressman as they continued their efforts towards, “Getting out the VOTE.”
Ellison exited the spirited staff meeting smiling and upbeat. Immediately, Roznowski moved the Congressman and I into a corner office where I had the opportunity to discuss with Ellison his political platform and agenda moving forward into 2013.
“The most powerful defense towards defeating the richest one percent in the upcoming election means that citizens from the 5th congressional district respond through their civil rights to organize and devote ongoing efforts to getting Minnesotans to the polls to cast their votes on Election Day,” Ellison said. “When it comes to voting, everybody matters.”
During the Civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated that citizens, “ . . . must demonstrate against injustices.” Like Dr. King Jr., Ellison has responded to injustice by directing non-violent actions against oppressive laws by actively promoting efforts such as participating in the, “Getting Out the VOTE Campaign.”
Ellison said he believes that voting affords citizens the fundamental right to express and activate their voice through a purposeful process of hope. In the spirit of non-violent demonstration, it gives citizens the opportunity to determine whether or not they feel their views will be represented through the elected officials.
Working tirelessly to address critical human rights issues identified by his constituents that needed serious attention, Ellison said that he follows a similar path to that of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone. He continues to play an essential role towards alleviating transitional housing and mobility issues for Minneapolis families and children.
He worked to create a bill for Minneapolis families so that children in transition could remain in the Minneapolis Public School district when housing needs changed. He worked to increase the quality of life for Minnesotans across the state by holding natural gas companies accountable to environmental standards and ecologically sound practices.
Using innovative approaches, he said it is empowering citizens to intensify and assert themselves within government and political arenas. A collaborative group of citizens who understand political and human rights can elevate debate and vigorous dialogue towards playing a fundamental role within the regions they live and dwell, he added.
Ellison’s has always worked to address racial, economic and cultural barriers, and has created ways to build and bridge chasms towards growth, prosperity and hope.
“I’m mainly interested in the politics of generosity and inclusion,” he said. “If we start by taxing the richest one percent, everyone should be able to go to the doctor! Everyone should have access to a great education. Everyone can afford the opportunity to obtain a higher education and be ready for college or the workplace. But right now, too many big corporations don’t have to pay taxes or comply with government or federal regulations.”
Reinstating the middle class and taxing the richest one percent should resolve economic hard times, Ellison stated.
“This would alleviate the American middle class of its economic challenges so that it can be restored,” Ellison said. “There is more inequality today then there was during the Great Depression. We need to organize around a political agenda where everybody counts and everybody matters.”
Ellison said his political platform circles around growing prosperity for the working class, increasing and maintaining global peace, making considerable investments in environmental sustainability efforts to eliminate toxins for Minnesotans and moving into a new space of human rights and civil rights, by eliminating the sharp edges of exclusion.
While visiting with the congressman, I couldn’t help but notice that his platform rang similar to a quote I once read by Wellstone, whose photo I had passed on my way in, “Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives. It’s about advancing the cause of peace and justice in our country and the world. Politics is about doing well for people.”
“It is time to pass comprehensive immigration reform, health care reform where everyone has access to health care, pass the marriage amendment act, pass a national infrastructure regarding how we look at banking for big businesses and small businesses and ensure that individuals within systems are not overlooked,” he said, “Counterweight to politics today, I will always be an activist.”
Ellison’s floor votes on the Senate floor rival Wellstone’s, who shares a similar political agenda that is reflected on the same values and ideals. They both voted to aid human and civil rights, the environment, education, equanimity, the marriage amendment act and health care.
Leaving the Congressman’s office on Friday, just 39 days before the November Election, I walked by the photo of with Wellstone and thought Ellison’s own leadership and confidence has established his own legacy.