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George J. Mitchell

U.S. Senate Majority leader; Senator from Maine; U.S. Attorney, U.S. District Judge

Interview Year: 2015

George Mitchell grew up in a poor neighborhood near Maine’s Kennebec River and experienced firsthand the severe air and water pollution from the paper mill on its shores.  During an illustrious career as a lawyer, he took part in enforcing the tough new environmental laws of the seventies as a U.S. Attorney and federal district court judge in Maine.  As U.S Senator and then Senate majority leader from 1980-1995, he shepherded passage of major new air pollution and oil spill prevention legislation setting environmental standards still higher. He recalls with pride the long and intense negotiations to enact the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, supported by the first President Bush and finally passed with substantial bipartisan support. 

The loss of bipartisan cooperation and the withdrawal of support from most of the Republican leadership in recent years has hobbled the work of the Congress in addressing both domestic and global problems, in Mitchell’s opinion.  He deplores the rejection of climate science and the fact that some men running for Presidentare  taking positions that are “directly contradicted by the overwhelming scientific majority in the scientific community.  And you can’t make policy based on pseudoscience.  It inevitably produces a harmful result."

Mitchell has served the country and the world on many challenging assignments since his retirement from the Senate, most notably as Independent Chairman of the Northern Ireland Peace Talks from 1996-2000 that produced the Good Friday Agreement ending decades of armed conflict. He worries about today’s serious foreign policy pressures, including population growth and youth unemployment in part of the developing world as well as climate change   He is Chairman Emeritus of the DLA Piper law firm and continues to contribute his legendary judgment and skill as a director of many companies and an advisor to countless community projects.