BIRMINGHAM, Ala.-George J. Mitchell, the
retired U.S. Senator from Maine who chaired last year's international
effort to study the continuing crisis between Israel and Palestine,
will address the Birmingham-Southern class of 2002 during the college's
143rd commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 25.
The one-time U.S. Senate majority
leader will keynote the 3:30 p.m. event in the Boutwell Auditorium
in downtown Birmingham. More than 4,000 family members and
friends are expected to attend commencement, where Birmingham-Southern
will confer some 347 bachelor's and master's degrees.
Mitchell, who retired in 1995 after
14 years in the Senate, currently serves as chairman of the
International Crisis Group, a non-profit organization dedicated
to the prevention of crises in international affairs. He also
oversees the American Red Cross Liberty Fund, which provides
relief for Sept. 11 attack victims and their families.
Birmingham-Southern's Commencement Day begins
with the Baccalaureate Service at 10:30 a.m. at First United Methodist
Church in downtown Birmingham. The Rev. Charles Lee, senior minister
of Huffman United Methodist Church, will deliver the Baccalaureate
address. The Georgiana native is a past member of the college's
Board of Trustees.
The college's traditional Capping Ceremony
is set for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 24, in the Bruno Great Hall
of the Norton Campus Center. During the ceremony, graduating students
are "capped" with their mortar boards by a loved one or
Mitchell was appointed to the U.S. Senate
in 1980 to replace Sen. Edmund Muskie, who was named Secretary of
State. Mitchell was elected Senate majority leader in 1988.
His work in the Senate led to reauthorization
of the Clean Air Act; the first national oil spill prevention and
clean up law, including new controls on acid rain toxins; the first
child care bill; and a low-income housing tax credit program. He
also was instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities
Act and led the Senate to ratification of the North American Free
Trade Agreement and the creation of the World Trade Organization
Following his retirement from the Senate,
Mitchell was selected to chair the historic peace talks in Northern
Ireland which resulted in the Belfast Agreement in May 1998. In
October 2000, President Clinton, Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel,
and President of the Palestinian Council Yasser Arafat asked Mitchell
to chair the International Fact-Finding Committee to examine the
continuing crisis between the Israelis and Palestinians.