Senator George Mitchell '54 will speak to a sold-out Common Hour audience today, kicking off a week's worth of events celebrating service and the common good.
Senator Mitchell's visit serves as the opening ceremony for Saturday's Common Good Day, to be followed next Friday by the official opening of the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good.
"It's the start of a week-long series of events related to the opening of the center," said Susie Dorn, director of the McKeen Center. "It's so timely and perfect because [Mitchell] represents the breadth of public engagement that the McKeen Center seeks to encourage and support for all members of the Bowdoin community."
Senator Mitchell's career has been focused on a commitment to peace and legislation. Mitchell served as a U.S. Senator from 1980 to 1995, becoming Majority Leader in 1989. In 1995, he also chaired the peace negotiations which led to the Northern Ireland Peace Accord in 1998. Most recently, he served as chair of Major League Baseball's investigation into illegal steroid use.
According to Vice President for Communications and Student Affairs Scott Hood, Mitchell's history of serving others makes him the ideal person to kick off the events surrounding Common Good Day.
"I think Senator Mitchell really epitomizes what President McKeen was talking about," he said. "He epitomizes the call to serve the common good."
"He has been somebody who is called upon all the time to investigate situations that call for somebody with integrity and wisdom and a sense of fairness," added Hood.
When Senator Mitchell was initially issued the invitation to speak in April of 2008, the College purposefully scheduled his visit for this weekend.
"It was very intentional?we knew this week would be a week of celebration and recognition for the center," said Hood.
"He is the perfect person in every way to start us off," added Dorn.
Mitchell's politics have not only celebrated peace, but also education, especially in his home state of Maine. The Mitchell Institute, which he founded in 1995, awards scholarships to one senior from every high school in Maine.
Kyle Dempsey '11, a Mitchell scholar at Bowdoin and the first in his immediate family to attend college, spoke of the program's goals.
"It's really geared toward first-generation college students with financial aid," he said. "The goal of the Mitchell Institute in general is to look at the obstacles students face when going to college in Maine."
Dempsey also praised Mitchell's altruism.
"It goes back to his vision to break down these barriers that so many have coming to college," he said.
As evidenced by these programs and by his own personal attachment to the College, Mitchell's connection to Bowdoin still runs deep. This is not the first time the Class of 1954 graduate has been asked back to his alma mater. Mitchell spoke on campus in 2002 when the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives was dedicated in his name. Mitchell donated his personal papers to the department. According to Hood, these papers include documents from his years of service in the Senate. Mitchell also spoke at his 50th reunion in 2004.
"He believes that his life would have been very different had it not been for his experience here," Hood said.
Mitchell's lecture will take place at 12:30 p.m. in Pickard Theater. Though the event requires a ticket, a live feed will be projected into the Wish Theater for those not able to find seats in Pickard.