February 28, 2000
Volume 52, No. 23
Mitchell named Commencement speaker
By Michael Terrazas
Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, a Democrat from Maine who recently brokered the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland, will deliver this year's Commencement address, the University announced last week.
Mitchell was appointed to the senate in 1980 to complete the term of Edmund Muskie, who resigned to become secretary of state under President Jimmy Carter. Mitchell was elected to a full term in 1982, and in 1988 he was reelected with 81 percent of the vote, the largest victory margin in Maine's history. He served six years as Senate majority leader before resigning in 1995 and once was voted the "most respected member" of the Senate by senior congressional aides.
"George Mitchell has justly been praised and celebrated for his extraordinary patience, intelligence and diplomatic skills in bringing about what the world hopes will be a constructive and durable peace agreement in Northern Ireland," President Bill Chace said of the speaker whose words will usher this year's graduates into the world. "He served in the U.S. Senate for many years and was recognized by his colleagues as one of the most admired congressmen in that body. I am sure he will deliver an address that will both inspire and educate the proud graduates and their families and friends."
After leaving the Senate, Mitchell joined the Washington law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, but he did not give up his public role. At the request of the British and Irish governments, he chaired both the International Commission on Disarmament in Northern Ireland and the peace negotiations between those two countries. For his role in the peace process, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.
"Mitchell's inestimable political genius played a crucial role in achieving the historic Good Friday Agreement," Kirkus Reviews wrote in reference to Mitchell's 1999 book, Making Peace, about his experiences in Northern Ireland. " As it emerges here, his unwavering patience, vast experience and supreme evenhandedness steered the bickering parties toward consensus, pushing the peace process forward against powerful tides of sectarian hatred."
Mitchell is the author of three other books. Along with fellow Sen. Bill Cohen of Maine, he wrote Men of Zeal about the Iran-Contra investigation. In 1990 Mitchell wrote World on Fire about the environmental threat of global warming. He published Not For America Alone: The Triumph of Democracy and the Fall of Communism in 1997.
Mitchell received his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College in Maine, then served as an Army officer in Germany. He earned his law degree from Georgetown University in 1960 and for two years served as a trial lawyer in the Justice Department.
In 1965 Mitchell returned to Maine and opened a private law practice, which he ran until 1977, when he was appointed U.S. attorney for the state.
In 1979 Mitchell was appointed a U.S. District judge, resigning a year later to accept his Senate appointment.