It’s a classic story of the American Dream. George Mitchell grew up in a working class family in Maine, experiencing firsthand the demoralizing effects of unemployment when his father was laid off from a lifelong job. But education was always a household priority, and Mitchell embraced every opportunity that came his way, eventually becoming the ranking Democrat in the Senate during the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Told with wit, frankness, and a style all his own, Senator Mitchell’s memoir reveals many insights into the art of negotiation. Mitchell looks back at his adventures in law and politics—including instrumental work on clean air and water legislation, the Iran-Contra hearings, and healthcare reform—as well as life after the Senate, from leading the successful Northern Ireland peace process, to serving as chairman of The Walt Disney Company, to heading investigations into the use of steroids in baseball and unethical activity surrounding the Olympic Games. Through it all, Senator Mitchell’s incredible stories—some hilarious, others tragic, all revealing—offer invaluable insights into critical moments in the last half-century of business, law, and politics, both domestic and international.
For more than two years, Mitchell, who was Senate majority leader under Presidents Bush and Clinton, labored to bring together parties whose mutual hostility--after decades of violence and mistrust--seemed insurmountable: Sinn Fein, represented by Gerry Adams; the Catholic moderates, led by John Hume; the majority Protestant party, headed by David Trimble; Ian Paisley's hard-line unionists; and, not least, the governments of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, headed by Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair.
The world watched as the tense and dramatic process unfolded, sometimes teetering on the brink of failure. Here, for the first time, we are given a behind-the-scenes view of the principal players--the personalities who shaped the process--and of the contentious, at times vitriolic, proceedings. We learn how, as the deadline approached, extremist violence and factional intransigence almost drove the talks to collapse. And we witness the intensity of the final negotiating session, the interventions of Ahern and Blair, the late-night phone calls from President Clinton, a last-ditch attempt at disruption by Paisley, and ultimately an agreement that, despite subsequent inflammatory acts aimed at destroying it, has set Northern Ireland's future on track toward a more lasting peace.
A new van was purchased and fitted out with a bed, typing stand, CB and regular AM-FM radio, specially cut mosquito netting, and a fan. The Institute's charge dictated that I'd see the rural South, not too much of the Interstate/urbanized South. Places like Ville Platte, Louisiana; Ink, Arkansas; Ripley, Mississippi; Pickens, South Carolina; and Fincastle, Virginia. The blessings of this constraint came vividly to mind when my path intersected an Interstate cloverleaf in Georgia — typically crammed with service stations, motels and fast food franchises. Over the door of one eatery hung a banner proclaiming "Join the Fun — Eat and Run." All told, I logged nearly 28,000 miles between May and October, 7977.
I kept an eye out for the little things. Graffiti, for example. In the rest room of a Charlottesville, Virginia, vegetarian restaurant I found: "Mother made me a homosexual." Below, in another's writing, "Fantastic! If I bought her the yarn, would she make me one?" Or signs, like one on a New Orleans building: Straight Business College. And listened for larger themes, not at all certain I could hear them — but knowing that these, too, were a Southern tradition going back at least to the days of Fannie Kemble's Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation in 1838-1839, the powerful attack on slavery, and William Byrd 's History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina, the travel log some assert first described "the good ol' boy."
George Mitchell knows how to bring peace to troubled regions. He was the primary architect of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement for peace in Northern Ireland. But when he served as US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace from 2009 to 2011—working to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—diplomacy did not prevail. Now, for the first time, Mitchell offers his insider account of how the Israelis and the Palestinians have progressed (and regressed) in their negotiations through the years and outlines the specific concessions each side must make to finally achieve lasting peace.