Following a speech that recapped his successful efforts to forge peace in Northern Ireland against enormous odds, as well as a broad overview of what needs to be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians, Mitchell answered questions from students and community members.
Asked “What is different this time?” in the familiar scenario where a president seeks peace in the Middle East only to have it fall through, Mitchell suggested his answer holds a life lesson for students: “If you take the position that you tried something that you believed in and it didn’t work once, twice, or three times—that you’re going to give up—you’re going to find that you will go through life without solving a lot of problems that you could have solved,” he said.
“In Northern Ireland I had seven-hundred days of failure and one day of success,” he said.
“I was asked not dozens, but hundreds of times by reporters, ‘Senator, you’ve failed. When are you going home?’ Politicians held press conferences demanding that I go home on a regular basis. I persevered because, although I was often discouraged, I always believed that it could be done.”
Mitchell’s speech was the fourth Mitchell Lecture, a series sponsored by the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement that was endowed by gifts from Mitchell’s extended family and friends in Waterville and Maine. The series brought Mary Robinson, head of the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights, and Madeleine Albright, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., to campus in previous years.
—Stephen B. Collins ’74