John Mitchell, Sen. George Mitchell, and Sen. Tom Daschle chat before the Mitchell Lecture. (Fred Field photo)

Never was the camaraderie among Colby constituents and community members more evident at a George J. Mitchell Distinguished International Lecture than April 16 this year. Established in 2005 to bring high-profile international leaders to Mayflower Hill and to bridge the Waterville and Colby communities, the 2014 Mitchell Lecture had former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle in the high-profile speaker’s role. And Daschle saw Mitchell, his longtime senate colleague, at home among friends.

President Bro Adams joked at dinner that he was sure Mitchell would talk at length about his brother, legendary Colby basketball coach John Swisher Mitchell, who was at a head table.

Goldfarb Center podcast: Full audio of Sen. Daschle’s lecture

Once at the lectern, Mitchell invited Paula Goldfarb ’00 to tell the overflowing audience at the Goldfarb Center-sponsored event about her work with the organization Home Base, a collaboration between Massachusetts General Hospital and the Red Sox Foundation to provide care and support to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.

After the talk a student approached Mitchell tentatively as the auditorium emptied, and the statesman stopped still and bent in close to hear her say her father had encouraged her to meet him personally.

Goldfarb Center Director Dan Shea was chided for missing one of Mitchell’s proudest accomplishments. The former senator, secretary of state, international peace negotiator, Major League Baseball commissioner, and Waterville native said, “While I attended another college I won’t name here tonight … I spent one entire summer personally building that beautiful terraced lawn in front of Foss Hall.” He encouraged students to admire it as they climb the stairs. “And next time you introduce me, Dan, get your priorities straight about what I did or didn’t do.”

Mitchell described Tom Daschle, his colleague of 30 years, as one of the most widely recognized national experts on health-care policy. He ended his introduction of Daschle with, “And I never tire of hearing his corny South Dakota stories.”Sen. Tom Daschle (Fred Field photo)

Daschle found similarities between Maine and South Dakota, and he rose to the challenge: “I was about seven years old before I realized the name of my town wasn’t ‘Resume Speed,’” among his quips.

Daschle spoke about what he called “the most transformational time with regard to health in all of American history. There has never been a time where change has happened with the dimensions and the traction and the reach.” He highlighted large issues in health-care policy where there is almost unanimity, but admitted that agreement breaks down when it comes to the question, “What is the role of government?”

Daschle remained positive about the long-term prospects for improvement in American health care. “If this were a football field, I’d say we’re on the thirty yard line with about seventy yards to go,” he said. Predicting inevitable fumbles and setbacks as the campaign goes the remainder of the way, he said, “I’ve never been more optimistic about what our country can do to address health care in a meaningful way.”

Read Doug Harlow’s Morning Sentinel story on Daschle’s speech.

A full audio recording of the talk is online as a Goldfarb Center podcast.