“I can tell you what I loved about him most was his optimism and his confidence in this country and in progressives,” Ellison said. “He was patient and he cared, and he had real heart.”
Kari Moe, Wellstone’s former student and Senate chief of staff, told a story about how Wellstone would try and avoid the “Senators Only” elevators in the Capitol, but if it was the first to arrive, he would always grab staffers to ride with him, part of his motto of “I’m not for the Rockefellers, I’m for the little fellers.”
“It didn’t matter where you were from, if you were standing there with him, he would order you to get on that ‘Senators Only’ elevator. ... He even showed his populism on the elevators,” said Moe, who currently serves as Ellison’s chief of staff.
Avner told the story of a time when Wellstone was invited to release an American Bald Eagle into the sky.
“When you release an eagle, you reach down and you give it an uplift and give it a push so it can get into the air and catch the thermals,” Aver said. “And I looked at him [as he released the eagle] and he was crying and he said it meant too much to feel the freedom. He never forgot what an honor it was to represent the people and to be accountable to people, and all of us back here in the state understood that.”
This article has been updated to clarify Adam Green’s comment during the conference call.
Following the speeches from elected officials, the crowd stands at long tables as they dig into BBQ, brunswick stew, cadillac rice at the Law Enforcement Cookout at Wayne Dasher's pond house in Glennville, Ga., on Thursday, April 17, 2014.