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Hon. George Mitchell
Twenty years ago, before he stepped onto the world stage, George Mitchell prophetically captured the spirit of his own legacy in a speech to a graduating class:
For most human beings, life is a quest, a constant search for self-respect and the respect of others, for personal pride, for a measure of dignity. There is no single road to self-respect. Yet, in my opinion, nothing equals the satisfaction of public service- the opportunity to help others.
Before and since, George Mitchell’s career has been a monument to public service. After graduation from Bowdoin College and later Georgetown University law school, he served as executive assistant to Senator Edmund Muskie from 1962-1965. Next followed 12 years of private practice (and a run for the governorship), after which he was named U.S. Attorney for Maine in 1977 and appointed U.S. District Court Judge two years later. In 1980, he was appointed to fill Senator Muskie’s U.S. Senate Seat, and won election to that seat in 1982. His involvement in the Iran-Contra proceedings, election as Senate Majority Leader, and role in the enactment of the 1990 Clean Air Act are but three of his many noteworthy accomplishments during fourteen years in the Senate. Since leaving that body, he has served as an esteemed international advisor in many capacities, including as mediator of the multiparty negotiations that culminated in the Northern Ireland peace agreement, as head of a U.S. Olympic Committee investigation of improprieties in the site selection for the 2002 games, and most recently as leader of a committee to examine the current crisis between Israelis and the Palestinians.
In pursuit of his life’s quest, George Mitchell has restored our faith in government and our trust in a just system of laws. Tonight, in honor of his statesmanship, his vision, his leadership, and his commitment to improving the lives of the less fortunate, George Mitchell is the 2001 recipient of the Edmund S. Muskie Access to Justice Award.