Moments after I trumpeted Spamilton Friday (see it on Broadway or in Chicago), this great New York Times profile hit.

And having plugged, in that same post, Al Franken: Giant of the Senate — by Al Franken — it occurred to me I should share one of its more serious passages.

Al describes how he met his wife Franni nearly 50 years ago during their first week in college. And how Franni’s dad had died when Franni was just 18 months old, leaving her mom, at 29, to raise five kids ranging from 7 — the oldest — to just 3 months. But they did it. And all four daughters went to college.

And they did it [Al writes] because of Social Security, the G.I. Bill, and Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

They tell you in this country that you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And we all believe that. But first you’ve got to have the boots. And the federal government gave Franni’s family the boots.

When I think about the values that motivate me to this day — the values that brought me (in a very, very extremely roundabout way) to politics — I think back to my childhood, and to Franni’s. I think about the economic security that was the birthright of middle-class families like mine, and the opportunity that was available for families like Franni’s who wanted to work their way up into the middle class.

That, as I wrote in this year’s Senate Patriotic Essay Contest, is what America means to me.

And that’s how it’s supposed to be for every kid in America. You’re not supposed to have to be rich or lucky to have a chance to do great things. Opportunity is supposed to be for everyone

That’s why I’m a Democrat.

You see, Democrats are still the party of civil rights (and with each passing year, Republicans seem less and less interested in competing for that title). But Democrats aren’t just the part of equality for all — we are the party of opportunity for all. We’re the ones who want to give people the boots. We’re the ones who stand for the middle class and for those aspiring to it — not just because it’s the fair thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do. It’s how our country has always worked best.

My friend and political hero Paul Wellstone, who once held the seat that I now hold in the United States Senate, had a great way of putting it. He said, “We all do better when we all do better.”

So simple, so profound. “We all do better when we all do better.” It’s almost like a Haiku, if I knew what a haiku was.

Which I don’t.

Which of course he does.


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