by Bruce Piasecki, author of the creative memoir MISSING PERSONS, and a new book “A New Way to Wealth: The Power of Doing More with Less”
When Senator George Mitchell had just released his memoir, The Negotiator (published by Simon and Schuster near his 81st birthday), I met him at Skidmore after his wonderful talk about his life and book on that campus. He was kind to me and my wife, after what was a rather exhausting public set of appearances.
He was warm, witty, a true American.
On page 84 of this well written Memoir, he has already arrived in Washington with 100 dollars in his pocket, after serving as an intelligence field beginner in Berlin. He wants to win up at Georgetown Law School.
But he needs some money and work to afford that, despite his GI Bill benefits.
The combo of law school, and living expenses in Washington, require that. Then a number of lucky missteps occur on his way to Georgetown Law.
The beginning of this intelligent, and humble, Memoir sings with honesty about how early ambition needs friends in higher places, and a few lucky turns. Read it as 4 hundred pages chunks, beginning, middle, world travel, and end of life.
If someone wants a book about keeping an authentic valid voice despite political ambitions, I’d suggest this read.
By page 84, he understands he was already overconfident with his CIA assumptions, and that now he was going to ride lower on his high horse.
JUMPING TO THE END
Throughout this memoir, we learn about how Mitchell keeps the ordinary person in mind. He has a Maine based sense of humor about the blinding certainty of Urban professionals, or overtrained specialists. He talks about how some Bostonians were give a phone repair man hell for a broken phone on the side of a first-floor hotel — outside of Acadia National Park. Then the repair man, sees the Senator, and notes (in the Senator’s ear) that there is a working phone one floor lower in the basement, keeping the facts and the impatient Bostonians still loudly reprimanding his patient repair.
During a book tour of Belfast, I met hundreds at Queen’s University. During this week, I was well treated by my hosts, and shown some 200 owners of SME’s those small and medium sized new firms that were putting Belfast on the map with new shows in Hollywood. Many of these people were treating this American kindly because of their memories of how George Mitchell, and President Clinton, had helped them with resources, tactics, and time. I remember the tour they gave me of the Clinton rooms at Queen’s University, where pictures of the President hung next to one of George Mitchell.
George Mitchell ends his memoir brilliantly:
“When we were growing up, my mother often said to her children, softly, and with nostalgia, ‘You should see Lebanon (her home nation). It is so beautiful. The air is pure, the water is clear, the mountains, the forests, even the flowers smell better. Oh Lebanon, my Lebanon.” Mitchell’s mother always spoke this way.
“After arriving in the United States at the age of eighteen, she returned to Lebanon only once, late in life, after my father died. My sister Barbara accompanied her as they returned ot the village of Bkassine, where they attended a reception and dinner with relatives and friends in the house in which my mother was asked to say something.
“According to Barbara, my mother stood, paused, looked out at a large, happy crowd, and, with great emotion and a broad smile, said: ‘You should see America. It is so beautiful. The air is pure, the water is clean, the mountains, the forests, even the flowers smell better. Oh America, my America.”
“She had little formal education; she couldn’t read or write English and spoke it with a heavy accent; she worked her entire adult life on the night shift in a textile mill; but she was generous and loving, strong and wise, and she understood clearly the meaning of America.
“To me, no one has ever said it better.”
“Oh, America, my America.”
Bruce Piasecki reads plenty of Memoirs during Covid-19. This one by Mitchell was one of the most heartfelt and well written.