U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe will speak at the University of Southern Maine’s 2012 commencement on May 12, according to the Office of Public Affairs. This follows her announcement in February that she will not seek re-election this year after serving in Congress since 1979.
“We are deeply honored to have Senator Snowe speak at USM’s commencement,” said USM President Selma Botman in the press release. “Her distinguished record of public service embodies fundamental Maine values that will inspire our graduates and their families: integrity, hard work and courage in defense of principle.”
Snowe is a historic figure for Maine and the country, being the first woman in American history to serve both houses of the state legislature and Congress. When she was first elected as a state representative in 1978, she was the youngest Republican woman and became the first Greek-American to serve in Congress.
Along with Maine’s other senator Susan Collins, Snowe has become known as a moderate Republican willing to cross the aisle on some issues while sticking to current Republican orthodoxy on others. She supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and is committed to fiscally cautious policies, but supports legalized abortion and some gay rights.
When announcing her decision earlier this year to retire, Snowe cited ongoing partisan rancor in Washington. “Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term,” Snowe said Feb. 28 in a statement announcing her retirement.
Snowe’s centrism has earned her a spotlight in many of the major policy debates of her tenure in the senate. In 2005 she was named the 54th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine, and in 2006 Time Magazine named her among their top ten best senators. Time wrote of Snowe, “Because of her centrist views and eagerness to get beyond partisan point scoring, Maine Republican Olympia Snowe is in the center of every policy debate in Washington, but while Snowe is a major player on national issues, she is also known as one of the most effective advocates for her constituents.”
Snowe called USM a “beacon of learning and opportunity” in a press release from the university.
“I am profoundly honored to join the University of Southern Maine’s distinguished 2012 graduates at their commencement ceremonies this spring,” Snowe said in a press release. “I could not be more pleased to return to USM to share in this milestone occasion and deliver the commencement address.”