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Retired U.S. Senate majority leader George Mitchell to deliver Birmingham-Southern commencement address

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 friend.

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.

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