Twenty years ago, George Mitchell was the Senate’s Majority Leader, overseeing the passage of landmark legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and NAFTA. Fifteen years ago, he was in Northern Ireland, helping negotiate peace after decades of conflict. In the last decade, he has provided Major League Baseball with an independent investigation into the use of steroids by players and served as a Special Envoy to the Middle East on behalf of the United States.
Tuesday night, he was on the Baylor campus as the latest guest in President Ken Starr’s “On Topic” series. In front of a Waco Hall crowd of students, professors and others from the local community, Judge Starr and Senator Mitchell spent nearly an hour and a half discussing conflict in the Middle East, issues of religious freedom abroad, the peace process in Ireland, and performance-enhancing drugs in sports.
Perhaps the biggest ovation of the night came when Mitchell explained his relationship with Bob Dole, who was the ranking Republican leader in the Senate when Mitchell (a Democrat) was Majority Leader:
“I can say, with some pride, that not once ever, in those six years or since, has a harsh word ever passed between Bob Dole and I, in public or in private,” Mitchell said. “We were, and we are, good friends. We disagreed almost every day. We negotiated, we did the best we could representing our beliefs and those whom we represented, but we understood that we had a higher loyalty, and that higher loyalty was what’s best for the country. … You have to have the ability, at least, to listen to the other side, to give some credibility, … [to] establish a sense of respect and personal relationship that allows you to have a somewhat more open mind to that person’s views. Not to immediately discount them or not to always think that you have the exclusive answer to everything.”
Mitchell is the fifth special guest to have been featured in the “On Topic” series, following following billionaire alternative energy proponent T. Boone Pickens, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and leading constitutional scholar Akhil Reed Amar.
Sic ’em, Senator Mitchell and Judge Starr!