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Mitchell Selected As Graduation Speaker

By Jenny Zhang


Former Senator George J. Mitchell will speak at the 2003 commencement this June.

Mitchell was the chairman for the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland in 1998.

In an MIT press release, President Charles M. Vest said, “Senator Mitchell is a truly distinguished American and world citizen. His objectivity, integrity and wisdom have earned him respect across the political spectrum. We are very fortunate to have him address our graduates and their families.”

Mitchell lauded for peace efforts

Mitchell received many distinguished awards for his dedication to creating peace in Northern Ireland from 1995 to 1998, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, the Truman Institute Peace Prize, and the United Nations Peace Prize.

Mitchell, a democrat, also replaced Edmund S. Muskie as one of Maine’s senators in 1980 and was elected to two more terms, in 1982 and 1988. He was majority leader for the Democrats from 1989 until 1995.

In 2000, he chaired the Sharm el Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee, which studied the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and released a report in May of 2001 with recommendations for ending the violence.

In December 2001, Mitchell became overseer of the American Red Cross Liberty Fund, which helps victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Student leaders happy with choice

“I’m delighted that George Mitchell will be speaking at our commencement and I’m looking forward to [hearing] what he has to say,” said Sina Kevin Nazemi ’03, president of the class of 2003.

“I think it’s a good pick,” said Michael R. Hall ’03, the vice president. “As a student of English and Irish heritage, I appreciate his efforts and believe he’ll have excellent [remarks] to provide on the current world situation,” he said.

A commencement committee collects input from the MIT community and creates a list of potential candidates for guest speaker, but President Vest makes the final choice and contacts the speaker, said Professor W. Eric L. Grimson PhD ’80, chairman of the commencement committee.

Grimson said that suggestions are sought through announcements in the newspaper and e-mail from undergraduate and graduate representatives on the committee. The list is “open to input,” he said.

Once the commencement committee has finished discussing the possible speakers it gives these names to Vest, he said, although Vest is not obligated to choose a name from that list.

Nazemi said that the deliberations of the committee are strictly confidential, so he cannot reveal whether Mitchell was on the list of proposed speakers.