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Mitchell to speak at Commencement

George Mitchell
George Mitchell

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell, the architect of a peace agreement in Northern Ireland who came close to a repeat performance in the Middle East, will be MIT's 137th commencement speaker on Monday, June 9, in Killian Court.

In making the announcement, MIT President Charles M. Vest said: "Senator Mitchell is a truly distinguished American and world citizen. His objectivity, integrity and wisdom have earned him respect across the political spectrum. He has grappled effectively with some of the most daunting issues of conflict and peace in this era. We are very fortunate to have him address our graduates and their families."

Mitchell, who was appointed to represent Maine in the senate in 1982 when Edmund S. Muskie resigned to become Secretary of State, went on to be elected to two full terms. A Democrat, he served as Majority Leader from 1989 until he left the Senate in 1995.

At the request of the British and Irish government, Mitchell served as chairman of the Peace Negotiations in Northern Ireland that resulted in the Good Friday agreement in 1998. For his service there, he received numerous awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom--the highest civilian honor the U.S. government can give; the Philadelphia Liberty Medal; the Truman Institute Peace Prize; the German (Hesse) Peace Prize; and the United Nations (UNESCO) Peace Prize.

In 2000, President William J. Clinton, Israel's then Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasir Arafat asked Mitchell to chair an International Fact Finding Committee on violence in the Middle East. The committee's recommendation, widely known as "The Mitchell Report," was endorsed by the Bush administration, the European Union, and by many other governments.

Mitchell, a former U.S. Attorney who resigned as a U.S. District Court judge when he was appointed to the Senate, is a 1954 graduate of Bowdoin College and the Georgetown University Law Center (1960). He is now a partner in Piper Rudnick, a business law firm with offices in 12 major U.S. cities.

Mitchell is the author of four books. With former Senator and Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, he wrote "Men of Zeal," describing the Iran-Contra investigation. In 1990, Mitchell wrote "World on Fire," analyzing the threat of the greenhouse effect and recommending steps to curb it. His next book, published in 1997, was "Not For America Alone: The Triumph of Democracy and The Fall of Communism." In 1999, Mitchell wrote "Making Peace," an account of his experience in Northern Ireland.

Mitchell serves as the chancellor of The Queen's University of Belfast and as president of The Economic Club of Washington. He served as chairman of the International Crisis Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of crises in international affairs, as chair of the Special Commission investigating allegations of impropriety in the bidding process for the Olympic games, and as chair of the National Health Care Commission.

Mitchell will be the 35th person to deliver the Commencement speech since 1951. From 1964-81 MIT Presidents Julius A. Stratton, Jerome B. Wiesner and Paul E. Gray were the principal speakers.

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