Campus News

Senator George Mitchell '54, N. Ireland Peace Architect, to Speak at Bowdoin College Tonight

Story posted September 15, 1998

Sept. 10, 1998, BRUNSWICK, Maine -- The Honorable George J. Mitchell '54, former majority leader of the U.S. Senate and chief mediator of the recent Northern Ireland peace agreement, will speak and answer questions from the audience at Bowdoin College on Thursday, September 10 at 7:30 p.m. in Morrell Gymnasium.

Sponsored by the John C. Donovan Lecture Fund, Mitchell's address is open to the public, free of charge. Tickets are required and may be obtained at the Smith Union Information Desk or at Bookland, Cook's Corner, Brunswick beginning on Tuesday, September 8.

Mitchell recently served as chairman of the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland. Under his leadership, an agreement was reached by the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom and the political parties of Northern Ireland to end decades of conflict in Northern Ireland. The agreement was endorsed overwhelmingly by the voters of Ireland, North and South, in a referendum in May. Mitchell's leadership in Northern Ireland earned him worldwide praise. For his efforts he has been nominated for the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize.

A native of Waterville, Maine, Mitchell was appointed to the United States Senate in 1980 to complete the unexpired term of Senator Edmund S. Muskie, who resigned to become Secretary of State. Mitchell was elected to a full term in the Senate in 1982 in a stunning come-from-behind victory. After trailing in public opinion polls by 36 points, Mitchell rallied to win the election, receiving 61 percent of the votes cast.

In 1988, he was reelected with 81 percent of the vote, the largest margin in Maine history. He left the Senate in 1995 as the Senate majority leader, a position he had held since January 1989. Mitchell enjoyed bipartisan respect during his tenure. For six consecutive years he was voted "the most respected member" of the Senate by congressional staffers.

While in the Senate, Mitchell served on the Finance, Veterans Affairs, and Environment and Public Works committees. His work led to the enactment of nursing home standards in 1987 and evaluation of medical care outcomes in 1989. In his work on the Finance Committee, he concentrated on the Medicare program, welfare reform, and tax fairness legislation.

Mitchell led the successful 1990 reauthorization of the Clean Air Act, including new controls on acid rain toxins. He also authored the first national oil spill prevention and cleanup law.

Mitchell led the Senate to passage of the nation's first child care bill and was principal author of the low income housing tax credit program. He was also instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation extending civil rights protections to the disabled.

Mitchell's efforts led to the passage of a higher education bill that expands opportunities for millions of Americans. He was a leader in opening markets to trade and led the Senate to ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement and creation of the World Trade Organization.

Mitchell earned his undergraduate degree at Bowdoin in 1954, and then served in Berlin, Germany as an officer in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps until 1956. He earned an his law degree at Georgetown University Law Center in 1960. From 1960 to 1962, he was a trial lawyer in the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., and from 1962 to 1965 he served as executive assistant to Senator Muskie.

In 1965 he returned to a private law practice. In 1977 he was appointed U.S. Attorney for Maine, a position he held until 1979, when he was appointed U.S. District Judge for Maine. He resigned that position in 1980 to accept appointment to the U.S. Senate.

Mitchell is the author of three books. With his colleague, Senator William S. Cohen, a member of the Bowdoin Class and currently the U.S. Secretary of Defense -- Mitchell wrote Men of Zeal, describing the Iran-Contra investigation. In 1990 he wrote his second book, World on Fire, describing the threat of the greenhouse effect and recommending steps to curb it. His third book, published in 1997, was Not For America Alone: The Triumph of Democracy and The Fall of Communism.

Upon leaving the Senate, Mitchell joined the Washington, D.C. law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand. He serves as a director of the Walt Disney Company, Federal Express Corporation, Xerox Corporation, and UNUM Insurance Corporation. In addition, Mitchell serves as chairman of the International Crisis Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of crises in international affairs. He serves as chairman of the Ethics Committee of the U.S. Olympic Committee and as chairman of the National Health Care Commission created by the Pew Charitable Foundation.

The John C. Donovan Lecture Fund was established at Bowdoin in 1990 by family members, professional colleagues and friends of John C. Donovan, Bowdoin's DeAlva Stanwood Alexander Professor of Government at the time of his death in 1984. The fund is intended to support lectures in political science.

Online resources:

The George Mitchell Papers at Bowdoin College:


Time Magazine report (4/10/98) on the Northern Ireland peace process:


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