So, I was in the Hyde-Bath Field House listening to Senator Susan Collins delivering the keynote to 1100+ Maine students and teachers…
Her 2-part message was spot on for future Leaders of the 207. First she spoke of her experience campaigning against and losing to Independent candidate Angus King in the 1994 Maine gubernatorial election. “I got clobbered,” she noted. Back then, it never occurred to her that she would one day wind up a US Senator alongside fellow senator… Angus King. She told the students how this experience taught her the value of striving to turn supposed enemies into allies.
Then Senator Collins transitioned to address a challenge currently vexing teenagers and those who teach and/or love them: cyber-bullying. I felt that she hit the bull’s eye when she pointedly told the students that the adults would not be able to fix this problem for them. They were going to have to lead the charge to tackle and overcome this one by relying on each other.
Sitting in the audience, I couldn’t help but think of how fortunate we Mainers are to have a leader like Susan Collins, one who is clear in what she believes but is also able to reach “across the aisle” to work with others with different views. History shows that these kids have some great role models to emulate. After all, our state, one that would be considered neither large nor wealthy, has enjoyed a disproportionate share of outstanding leaders.
While some might have known Maine as “that state with two female senators,” perhaps they didn’t know that neither Susan Collins nor Olympia Snowe hold the distinction of being Maine’s first female US Senator. That honor belongs to Margaret Chase Smith.
Not only was Smith, a Republican, the first woman to serve in both the Congress and the Senate, she was also the first serious female candidate for President. (Interestingly enough, in her first senatorial re-election campaign, Smith was challenged by Lucia Cormier which marked the first time that two women faced off in a U.S. senate race.) Smith is also remembered for her 1950 “Declaration of Conscience” speech where she courageously challenged the underhanded tactics of McCarthyism.
Not only did Senators Bill Cohen (R) and George Mitchell (D) make their alma mater of Bowdoin College proud by serving as US Senators from different parties, both went on to serve in Presidential cabinets – Cohen in Defense and Mitchell as Secretary of State.
Tom Allen, another Bowdoin alum – “Go U Bears!!!” – became a Rhodes Scholar and went on to a distinguished career in the U.S. Congress. I will always remember that late 90’s day when he spoke at Hyde, sticking around for over an hour to answer questions from our students, fully knowing that these were largely out-of-state kids whose parents could never vote for him.
Then there was Senator Edmund Muskie. If there is ever a Hyde version of Trivial Pursuit, there will have to be a question pertaining to Senator Muskie’s time as a Trustee of none other than Hyde School. I was a student at the time, a period that coincided with Muskie’s status as front-runner for the U.S. presidency (1972 election). I remember being among a group of students who would go into the board meeting for a spell – As I understand it, Muskie insisted on this. – And him pointedly asking, “So, tell us, what is it really like to go to school here?” Pretty cool.
Maine is the only state in the “lower 48” that borders only one state. So, should you find yourself in Maine, you either took a wrong turn at New Hampshire, or you’re here for a reason. Lucky you.
Onward, Malcolm Gauld