Senator George J. Mitchell Honored at Maine State House (Video, Text, Photos)
Updated: It is now being reported that Senator Mitchell has been asked to serve as negotiator for the victims of last year’s Lac-Megantic, Quebec train disaster, as the company owning the train involved, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, goes through bankruptcy.
Maine’s Senator George J. Mitchell was honored this week at the State House and invited to speak before a joint convention of the full 126th Legislature, former leaders and invited guests. Among the dignitaries and Maine notables present were former Governor Joseph Brennan, Maine Supreme Court Justice the Hon. Leigh I. Saufley, Attorney General Janet T. Mills, Auditor Pola Buckley, former Maine Senate President Libby Mitchell, Speakers of the House John Martin and John Richardson, and many others. Others who were unable to attend included Governor Paul LePage (due to a family medical issue), former Governor John Baldacci and Maine’s Congressional members, who sent well wishes which were read aloud to those assembled.
Rep. Mike Michaud:
- “I am honored to send my greetings as you address the Joint Session of the Maine State Legislature and attend the unveiling of your portrait in the Hall of Flags.
You are one of America’s finest statesmen, and we in Maine are proud of your distinguished legacy of public service. As Senator, you were a skilled legislator and a champion for the environment, education, health care, and for working families. When you became Majority Leader, you still came home every weekend and traveled throughout the state. While many may point to your legislative victories and diplomatic successes as the highlights of your career, the establishment of the Mitchell Institute is perhaps your greatest and most lasting accomplishment.
Throughout your career you have inspired and encouraged Maine’s young people to work hard, continue their education, and pursue their future careers. With the establishment of the Mitchell Institute, you have enabled countless young Mainers to go onto college and fulfill their dreams. For a lifetime of service to the people of Maine, it is a most fitting tribute to have your portrait displayed in the Hall of Flags.
Thank you, Senator, for your service to our state and to our nation, and thank you for your friendship and your wise counsel.”
Rep. Chellie Pingree (via Facebook):
- “Senator George Mitchell had his portrait hung up at the State House today. I first got to meet him years ago when I was School Board Chair on North Haven–as Senator, he visited every high school in the state, including the one on our tiny little island. He has touched thousands of lives, and I hope his portrait guides many generations of Maine leaders to come.”
Senator Mitchell’s address was heartfelt, humorous, insightful and mindful of the changing political environment facing politicians. He discussed the decades of his career in public service and cautioned the 126th Legislature that much of his accomplishments as both Senate Majority Leader in Congress and in helping negotiate peace in Northern Ireland came not from his ability to talk- but rather his ability to listen, to all who wished to be heard:
- “Remember that no party has a monopoly on patriotism, on good intentions, or wisdom. To the extent it’s possible, try to forego the personal insult, and concentrate on the issues. It’s better for you, and most importantly, it’s better for the people of Maine.
We share pride in the fact that we represented our country, first of all, our states, our parties and our constituents vigorously, and we hope, effectively, but without personal rancor or hostility. It can be done in Washington, in Augusta, in America.”
He also discussed with pride the work of the Mitchell Institute and the scholarships his foundation has provided to thousands of Maine students over the past twenty years. He drew applause when he praised Maine’s students:
“I’ve met thousands of these young people and I can tell you, without a doubt, Maine students are as good as any students in America,” Mitchell said Tuesday morning, to rousing applause from every corner of the packed House chamber. “And if they are given the chance and the tools, they can compete with anyone, anywhere, anytime.”
Text of his prepared remarks:
He concluded his remarks by asking lawmakers to do the best they could for the people of Maine based on their conscience and best judgment.
After his address, a commissioned portrait of Mitchell painted by artist James Hanley of Dublin, Ireland was unveiled in the Hall of Flags, where the picture now hangs. This is an honor previously given to a very select few Maine politicians, as only five others have preceded him: William King, James G. Blaine, Thomas Brackett Reed, Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and Sen. Edmund Muskie.
Video of the unveiling of Senator Mitchell’s portrait in the Hall of Flags: