We the People

The following is a short and incomplete history of the lives of three Republicans and two Democrats and what they did for “we the people.”

PERCIVAL P. BAXTER

Maine’s governor from 1921 to 1924 was a Republican from Portland.

After struggling to get the state to purchase land around Mount Katahdin, he used his own money to buy parcels of property in the Mount Katahdin area and then donated those parcels to our fair state.

“Man is born to die. His works are short-lived. Buildings crumble, monuments decay, and wealth vanishes, but Katahdin in all its glory forever shall remain the mountain of the people of Maine,” said then-Gov. Baxter.

Not a fan of the Ku Klux Klan (which, at the time, was active within the ranks of his own Republican Party), Gov. Baxter described the Klan as “an insult and an affront to all Maine and the American citizens.”

MARGARET CHASE SMITH

The Maine U.S. senator from 1949 to 1973 was a Republican from Skowhegan.

In a speech titled “A Declaration of Conscience,” written for the special hearings on Wisconsin Republican Sen. Joe McCarthy’s crusade to root out communists, Smith said:

“I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States senator. I speak as an American.”

And then she said:

“Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism – the right to criticize; the right to hold unpopular beliefs; the right to protest; the right of independent thought.”

EDMUND S. MUSKIE

Maine’s governor from 1955 to 1959 and Maine’s U.S. senator from 1959 to 1980, Muskie was a Democrat from Rumford.

Some call him the father of the modern environmental movement. He introduced the Clean Air Act of 1970, making it a national policy to protect human health by protecting the air, the water and the land.

On a roll, Muskie then introduced the Clean Water Act. The bill set a goal of ensuring that all bodies of water would be drinkable, swimmable and fishable. President Nixon vetoed the 1972 Clean Water Act, but on Oct. 18, 1972, the veto was overridden and the bill became law.

“Muskie had a truly dramatic effect on the lives of not just people alive at the time but on people who are going to live in this country, permanently, in cleaning up the waters,” George Mitchell said in an interview years later.

GEORGE J. MITCHELL

U.S. senator from Maine from 1980 to 1995, Mitchell is a Democrat originally from Waterville.

In 1998, Mitchell, after 36 hours of nonstop negotiations, led the Sinn Fein and Ulster Unionist parties to reach what has become known as the Good Friday Agreement, resulting in lasting peace in Northern Ireland.

WILLIAM S. COHEN

Maine’s 2nd District U.S. representative from 1973 to 1979 and Maine’s U.S. senator from 1979 to 1997, Cohen is a Republican originally from Bangor.

He was the first member of his party to break ranks and oppose Nixon’s position during the Watergate hearings.

He said: “I will not pass judgment on the president, personally …but that must not prevent us from living up to our responsibility to pass judgment on the conduct of our elected leaders.”

In 1978, he co-wrote the law creating the Office of the Independent Counsel – a direct result of Watergate, when the executive branch demonstrated its inability to govern itself.

Today, on this day of freedom, I’d like to thank each and all of these people for having a vision beyond their life expectancy.

I thank them for speaking up. I thank them for the mountain and the clean water and the fresh air and the truth telling. I thank them for thinking of our future and our kids’ future and our kids’ kids’ future. I thank them for adding value to our society and not just value to our pockets.