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Snowe honored with the Paul H. Douglas Award for ethics in government
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Sept. 24, in a ceremony at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., former U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe was presented with the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government.
The award is presented annually by the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. It was established in 1992 as part of the celebration of Senator Paul Douglas’s 100th birthday and in recognition of his outstanding service to the people of the State of Illinois and the nation. Previous award recipients include former Senator and Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen, and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.
In the words of the Institute’s website (http://igpa.uillinois.edu/ethics): “Douglas was a man of extraordinary integrity and vision, who brought the very best to government and set an example of what others should strive for in public service.” Among other causes he fought for in the Senate, Paul Douglas championed environmental issues, civil rights legislation and the creation of Medicare.
Born in Massachusetts, Senator Douglas actually grew up in Onawa, and graduated from Newport High School and Bowdoin College.
According to the Institute, “The award recognizes persons who have made a substantial contribution throughout their career to promoting high standards of ethics in government.”
Specifically, the selection committee said of former Senator Snowe, “…your career has been marked by many examples of your high ethical standards. Your willingness and your ability to work across partisan lines to achieve results good for the country have been well chronicled. An editorial in USA Today last year lamented your departure from the Senate and noted that you ‘always stood out as a political force for compromise and sanity.’” The selection committee also noted that former Senator Snowe was “a champion of the proposal to create a congressional Office of Public Integrity and a co-sponsor of a bill to create a searchable public database for congressional earmarks.”
Tuesday’s program took place in the presence of many of the late Senator Douglas’s family, as well as Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King who were in attendance along with a number of Senator Snowe’s former colleagues. Among the speakers was U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill), who was a host of the event, and Paul Douglas’s grandson, Philip Douglas.
Senator Douglas had owned a house on the Indiana Dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan, and successfully battled for the permanent preservation of the Dunes. In her remarks on Tuesday, Snowe described how, coincidentally, less than two weeks before the award ceremony, she and her husband, former Governor John R. McKernan, Jr., had been invited to visit longtime friend and former Illinois Congresswoman and U.S. Labor Secretary Lynn Martin - whose home now stands on Douglas’s former property. While there, Snowe collected sand from that property to bring back for the ceremony, “so that his spirit will truly be with us today,” Snowe said.
Snowe also spoke of reading a copy of Senator Douglas' biography while there, entitled "In the Fullness of Time," and how Douglas connected his love of the Dunes with his childhood in Maine:
“What remained,” he said in the book, “was…an ever present source of physical and spiritual renewal.” He said he “seemed to live again in the simplicities of his boyhood,” and “the memories of my boyhood and of the idyllic years that (he and his family) spent together in the Dunes were deeply rooted in me.”
Below are excerpts of Snowe’s remarks:
"I want to express my most profound appreciation for this incredible honor, in the name of a true legislative icon for ethics, integrity, and accomplishment…the legendary Senator Paul Douglas…
"I’m reminded of the intersecting lines between our two states of Illinois and Maine – as it was in the very same year of 1948 that Senator Douglas was elected to the Senate along with Maine’s own legislative powerhouse and political iconoclast, the legendary Senator Margaret Chase Smith.
"For all of us who attempted to walk in her footsteps, we inherited from Senator Smith our own tradition of independence. In fact, in those rare instances when I didn’t exactly tow the party line, I’d tell my leadership, I can’t help it, I’m from Maine!...
"Ultimately Mainers expect their elected officials to do the right thing for the right reasons and in the right way. And given the arc of Senator Douglas’s own political calling, it is perhaps no coincidence that, as the Institute itself has described, “the contours of his character were formed in the backwoods of Maine.”
"Now, we know that a good compass is required to navigate through the woods, and almost certainly young Paul Douglas would have had one. But he also developed there a compass of an altogether different kind: an exacting moral compass which he followed throughout the journey of his life; one that he used for a high purpose, and one that always pointed toward the “true north” of the noblest tenets of public service.
"Indeed, for him, service wasn’t a vehicle for the promotion of political labels or self-aggrandizement, but rather a sacred bond that necessitated integrity combined with the inimitable value of choosing good public policy over corrosive political expediency, for the sake of achieving results…
"These lessons of his life illuminate an ethos that is as critical today as ever. It’s about engendering and embracing the public trust through the highest standards of ethical conduct, while also adopting the highest ideals of legislative conduct - so that we can restore Americans’ confidence in the capacity of our governing institutions by demonstrating that we can work together to tackle our monumental challenges.
"Indeed, what motivated me to dedicate nearly two-thirds of my life to public service was the opportunity to produce results for those who entrusted me to be their voice. In short, I have always believed that my role as a public servant is to solve problems. And forging real solutions can only happen when we are willing to take risks working with each other, instead of against each other.
"That’s why my philosophy has always been to listen to and work with those whom you disagree, and to respect differing views. To acknowledge you don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. To accept that you won’t get 100 percent of what you seek, and therefore attempt to work through the differences. Because it is only when we minimize the political barriers that can we maximize the power of Congress.
"That is why I’m continuing my work from outside the institution, writing a book this year as Dick mentioned, and speaking on college campuses and at conferences to sound the alarm for bipartisan cooperation in Congress.
"Because as someone once said, bipartisanship is not just a political theory, it’s a political necessity. It remains the measure of hope for recording great accomplishments. And, ultimately, I believe it is only through a groundswell of recognition that there is strength in compromise, courage in conciliation, and honor in consensus building that we will leave an inheritance of responsible stewardship for the generations to come."