Question: What have been your greatest accomplishments and failures?
George Mitchell: Well, most times when I’m asked that question, it deals specifically with legislation- what’s the biggest thing you ever did in that respect? And there are quite a few, and I try not to select any. Perhaps illustrative was the major Clean Air bill that I was a principal supporter and author of in 1990. That was a very contentious bill-- took years and years of effort, and a very long legislative process, and I devoted a lot of my life to it. That, probably in legislative terms, was- I don’t know if it was the most important, but it was the most comprehensive and a major bill. Outside of that, I tend to talk about two things: first, my work in Northern Ireland. I spent a total of about five years, chaired three separate sets of proceedings. I wasn’t there for five years non-stop-- coming and going-- but for the most part I was there for long periods of time during that stretch, and we just in the past month have celebrated the tenth anniversary of the so-called Good Friday Agreement, the peace agreement, which resulted from one of the negotiations which I chaired. That was very significant. I like Northern Ireland. I like the people, I like the place. I still go there quite a bit. I serve as the Chancellor of the Queens University in Northern Ireland, which is a large institution of higher learning there. And so that takes me back and in other capacities, I go back probably three or four times a year, and I like to take my children there, to give my young children, to give them some sense of what was important in my life. The other thing that I spent a lot of my time on and that I’m most proud of is when I left the Senate, I created a scholarship program for needy students from Maine. Started small-- I got started in a funny way, I had raised money in preparation for re-election, then I decided not to run, and so I wrote to every contributor and I said, “You can have your money back
if you want it, but if you leave it with me, I’m gonna use it for scholarships.” And about half took the money back and about half left it with me-- that got us started and I’ve since spent-- that was thirteen years ago and I’ve spent a great time in the intervening thirteen years raising money, and we now provide a scholarship to a graduate from each public high school in Maine, 130 of them, each year. So, we have a lot of kids have gone through the process and I spent a lot of time at it, and it’s very heartening to see it, because I myself, as I mentioned earlier in the interview, I wasn’t certain I was gonna go to college. My parents had absolutely no money. My father wasn’t working at the time, and I got a lot of help from a lot of people, some scholarship assistance, a lot of work effort, Bowdoin College, which I went to- a great institution, to which I owe much of what I’ve been able to do in life. They helped me out with a lot of jobs, so I kinda worked two, three, four jobs all the time while I was in school, and it not only helped me get through school, but it taught me, I think, a good work ethic. So, the scholarship fund means a lot to me. I meet with these students each year and I see in a lot of them where I was at the time-- uncertain, insecure, don’t really know what you’re gonna do with life, but there’s a potential.