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Former Senate Majority Leader Discusses International Role of US


“In the dangerous world of the 21st century, we need to be strong and well prepared,” said George Mitchell in the Vacketta-DLA Piper Lecture in mid-October. The former US Senator and Senate majority leader spoke about America’s role in the world in the 21st century to an overflow audience of alumni, faculty, and students at the College of Law lecture established by Carl Vacketta ’63 (commerce law) and DLA Piper. Mitchell is currently a partner with DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary where Vacketta is a senior partner.

Mitchell spoke about the role of the US in a world where anti-US sentiment is high and terrorism is on the rise. “The vast network alliance of free nations, led by the US, must be renewed and reinvigorated,” Mitchell commented. As the only remaining world superpower, the US is in a position to lead efforts to achieve peace and democracy around the globe. Mitchell said that 90 percent of the country’s intelligence budget is used to collect data and less than 10 percent is used for analysis, pointing to a need for a greater emphasis on analysis and an overall improved intelligence capability to combat terrorist groups. He emphasized that nine countries now have nuclear weapons and others have the capability but are not actively pursuing development.

“Conflicts are created by human beings and can be ended by human beings,” he said, noting that the major conflict in the Middle East is between Israel and the Palastinians. In 2000, Mitchell served on a fact finding committee that looked at the conflict in the Middle East.

Mitchell served in the Senate from Maine from 1980 to 1995 and was the majority leader from 1989 to 1995. A graduate of Bowdoin College and Georgetown University School of Law, he served as a chairman of the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland, where under his leadership an historic accord, ending decades of conflict was signed between the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom and the political parties of Northern Ireland in 1998. Before he became senator, he served as a federal district judge in Maine from 1979-1980. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the UN Peace Prize.

“Democracy literally means by the rule of the people. Nowhere has that idea completely realized than here in our own country,” Mitchell said in his closing remarks. The Maine native recalled his service as a federal district judge where he presided over naturalization ceremonies. During one he was moved to have a new citizen tell him in halting English that “America is freedom and opportunity.”


–Maria Zamudio

UIUC College of Business