George John Mitchell is the American special envoy to the Middle East for the Obama administration. A Democrat, Mitchell was a United States Senator who served as the Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995. He was chairman of The Walt Disney Company from March 2004 until January 2007, and was chairman of the international law firm DLA Piper at the time of his appointment as special envoy.
He is the Chancellor of Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 2006, he was asked by the Commissioner of Baseball to lead an investigation of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional baseball.
In addition to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Senator Mitchell has received awards and honors including the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, the Truman Institute Peace Prize, the German Peace Prize and the United Nations (UNESCO) Peace Prize.In the Senate, he was closely associated with free trade and environmental legislation, and with aid to housing and education. He led the successful 1990 reauthorization of the Clean Air Act, including new controls on acid rain toxins. He was the author of the first national oil spill prevention and clean-up law. Mitchell led the Senate to passage of the nation's first child care bill and was principal author of the low income housing tax credit program. He was instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation extending civil rights protections to the disabled. Mitchell's efforts led to the passage of a higher education bill that expanded opportunities for millions of Americans. Senator Mitchell was also a leader in opening markets to trade and led the Senate to ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement and creation of the World Trade Organization.For six consecutive years he was voted "the most respected member" of the Senate by a bipartisan group of senior congressional aides. In 1994 George Mitchell declined an appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States in order to remain in the Senate and pursue the struggle for universal national health care.
Question: Is the peace in Northern Ireland sustainable?
George Mitchell: I hope so. And, obviously, pray that it will be durable and sustained, and that it will be followed by genuine reconciliation, which has not yet arrived. It’s still a divided society that’s still segregated in many ways, but I think that, with each passing day, peace being established and the economy doing well, the likelihood of their reversion to widespread sectarian conflict goes down. I stress the economy. I spent a good bit of time in the Balkans before I went to Northern Ireland. I spent a good bit of time in the Middle East after I left Northern Ireland, and while they’re different, these and other conflict situations, while not being primarily economic in nature, all have an important economic underpinning. And I’ve come to believe that you have to deal with political and security measures, but you have to include economics right at the very top. You need economic growth, you need job creation, you need opportunity for people, education, skill, knowledge- all of that if you want to reduce the likelihood of conflict. That isn’t guaranteed stability, prosperity and reconciliation, but without it, it’s very difficult to obtain.