Peace Is Possible
Only a few days after the Israelis and Palestinians agreed to the U.S. road map to peace, former U.S. senator George Mitchell (D-Maine) told the Class of 2003 he believed the conflict in the Middle East could be ended. Mitchell chaired the international fact-finding committee on violence in the Middle East and wrote its report, which led to the Bush administration’s peace plan. Under gray skies and cool temperatures, he outlined his proposal as part of his commencement speech to the 2,202 graduates and their families.The goal, he said, is security for Israel and an independent state for the Palestinians: “Neither can attain its objective by denying to the other side its objective.” But he noted that the culture of peace nurtured over the previous decade is gone. “In its place there has developed a sense of futility and despair [about] the inevitability of conflict. The majorities on both sides largely agree on the solution, but they no longer trust the other sides’ intentions to reach it,” Mitchell said. It’s important, he cautioned, that the United States not turn away when the “inevitable setbacks occur.”
This is not the first time Mitchell has headed an international group aimed at establishing peace in a war-torn region. He chaired the negotiations that produced the Good Friday peace agreement in 1998, which led to peace in Northern Ireland. It was that experience that convinced Mitchell there is “no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended.”
Mitchell also delivered a more personal message to the graduates. A good education, he said, is not a substitute for a life of effort. He encouraged them to oppose any action that would deny any child a good education; to support policies that would assure clean air, pure water, and unpoisoned land for the future; and to speak out against discrimination.
He went on to encourage graduates to devote themselves to more than just making money. “The more successful you are, the more evident it will become that there’s more in life. Real fulfillment in life will come from striving with all your physical and spiritual might for a worthwhile objective that helps others, that is larger than your self-interest.”