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Sen. George Mitchell Addresses Maine Legislature, Unveils Portrait
01/28/2014   Reported By: Keith Shortall

And then there were six: Another portrait was unveiled today in the Hall of Flags at the Maine State House The portraits are of Maine politicians considered to have made significant contributions to the state, and to the nation. The latest likeness is of former U.S. senator and peace envoy George Mitchell. Prior to a ceremony to mark the unveiling of his portrait, Mitchell addressed a joint session of the Maine Legislature. Keith Shortall has more.

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Mitchell's resume and list of achievements are familiar by now: federal judge; U.S. senator from 1980 to 1995, including six years as majority leader; special envoy to Northern Ireland and to the Middle East. But as he was honored at the State House, Mitchell (right) spoke of his humble beginnings in Waterville and about the importance of his education - something his parents never had.

"My mother could not read or write English," he said. "She worked the night shift at textile mills in central Maine for all of her adult life. My father was a janitor at Colby College. But because of their efforts, and more importantly because of the openness of American society, I, their son, was able to get the education they never had and become the majority leader of the United States Senate."

And Mitchell used the opportunity to cite some of the successes of the Mitchell Institute, which, as of this year, will have provided $11 million in college scholarships to more than 2,000 high school seniors from every high school in Maine. Mitchell says more than 60 percent of them are the first in their families to earn a bachelor's degree.

"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."

The remark drew enthusiastic applause, possibly because it served as a response to critics of the state's education system, such as Republican Gov. Paul Lepage, who was not in attendance.

"And if they are given the chance and the tools, they can compete with anyone, anywhere, any time," Mitchell added.

Mitchell 4After the address to the joint session, the Mitchell event moved upstairs to the Hall of Flags, where Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth conducted the unveiling of an image (left) that will join a small collection depicting the state's most historically important political figures.

"Today George J. Mitchell's portrait enters of the Hall of Flags in recognition of the esteem in which he is held by his fellow citizens of Maine," Shettleworth said, to applause.

"It's humbling for me to have my portrait take its place alongside those of the great men and women who have been so important to our state: William King, James G. Blaine, Thomas Brackett Reed, Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, and, of course, my mentor and hero, Sen. Edmund Muskie," Mitchell said. "For me, this really is dancing with the stars."

Gov. Paul LePage's office issued a statement earlier in the day saying that he could not attend the Mitchell events due to a family medical matter.

A.J. Higgins and Jennifer Rooks contributed reporting to this story.

Photos: Keith Shortall


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