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Mitchell to speak at graduation

George Mitchell
George Mitchell

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.

"Senator Mitchell is a truly distinguished American and world citizen," President Charles M. Vest said in making the announcement. "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 governments, Mitchell chaired 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 Clinton, Israel's then Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and PLO chairman Yasir Arafat asked Mitchell to chair an international fact-finding committee on violence in the Middle East. The committee's recommendation, known as "the Mitchell Report," was endorsed by the Bush administration, the European Union and many 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 U.S. cities.

With former senator and defense secretary William S. Cohen, he wrote "Men of Zeal," about the Iran-contra investigation. His other books are "World on Fire" (1990), analyzing the threat of the greenhouse effect, and "Not For America Alone: The Triumph of Democracy and the Fall of Communism" (1997); and "Making Peace" (1999), an account of his experience in Northern Ireland.

Mitchell ias chancellor of The Queen's University of Belfast and as president of the Economic Club of Washington. He chaired the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing 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.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 2, 2003.

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