News Releases

Remarks by Senator Murray Honoring Paul and Sheila Wellstone's Work to End Domestic Violence

Oct 28 2003

National Network to End Domestic Violence Reception Highlighting Domestic Violence Awareness Month


Thank you, Lynn. I’m proud to be here tonight to celebrate Paul & Sheila Wellstone’s commitment to ending Domestic Violence.

Paul was more than a colleague to me. His victory encouraged me to run for the Senate, when many people said I couldn’t win. In 1990, when Paul Wellstone ran for the Senate, a lot of people were watching him and following his race. Pundits said he couldn’t win. But as I watched him, I became motivated.

At the time, I was serving in the Washington State Senate, and I too was frustrated by what I saw happening here in Washington, D.C. In Paul, I saw someone who cared about the little guy and who spoke out passionately.

Paul was never afraid to voice his ideas or to take on big fights. Not only did he win his Senate race, but in the process, he inspired a generation of young people to serve their communities.

And on a more personal level, Paul inspired me to run for the United States Senate. His example reminded me that you don’t need to be powerful or rich -- or even tall -- to make a difference. You just need to have an honest concern for others, an optimistic spirit, and the courage to act.

Whenever there was a battle for social justice, Paul was there – fighting the good fight. I remember one time last year when he showed up unexpectedly at a press conference on education. Senators Kennedy, Harkin, Reed, and others were scheduled to talk about making classrooms less crowded. Out of nowhere, Paul Wellstone rushed into the room looking a bit confused. We were surprised because Senator Wellstone was not scheduled to speak and was not on the agenda. When Paul got to the podium, the first thing he said was, “I’m not sure if I’m in the right room.” He said, “When I ran into Ted Kennedy on the floor a little while ago, he asked me if I was going to the education press conference. I said I hadn’t heard about it, but I would be there.” He continued, “So frankly, I don’t even know if I’m talking to the right group but I’m going to tell you why we need to fight for our kids.” Everyone laughed. Paul went on to give a passionate, off the cuff speech that wowed and inspired everyone in the room. To me, that really captures Paul’s spirit.

Wherever some cause needed a voice, he would rush in – regardless of the schedule – and give his impassioned best. If there were a need, he’d be there to speak out.

Paul and I worked on many bills together including:
  • FMLA
  • Protecting families from asbestos
  • Welfare – Family Violence Option
  • and VAWA.

For many years, we worked to help domestic violence victims escape the economic barriers that trap them in abusive relationships – through the Victims Economic Safety and Security Act (VESSA). On Thursday, I’ll re-introduce that bill with a new name – the SAFE Act: Safety and Financial Empowerment Act

The SAFE Act:
  • Provides 30 days of leave so victims can go to the doctor or to court
  • Provides unemployment compensation if a victim can’t work because of abuse
  • Prohibits employers and insurance companies from discriminating against victims
  • Provides support to employers who are doing the right thing and trying to help victims
  • And provides grants for Domestic & Sexual Violence in the Workplace programs.

Paul always said, “Keep on Marching, Keep on Fighting.” That’s what I’m doing with this bill, and I need your help. I need your help to get your Senators and Representatives to co-sponsor the bill.

October is DV Awareness Month and it’s the right time to honor Paul and Sheila Wellstone’s commitment by passing the SAFE Act and fully funding VAWA. Without Paul and Sheila -- and their leadership -- we’re going to have to work even harder.

You know, in the Senate Chamber, Paul’s desk was just behind mine and whenever there was a key debate on Domestic Violence, I would turn around and see Paul giving a speech just behind me – arms waving in the air passionately. I know that Paul is still – with all of his passion – asking us to continue the fight, and with all of your help, that’s what we’re going to do.