By Julie Pike, Editor-in-Chief
Governor Janet Mills, the first female governor of Maine, will be delivering the keynote address at the 2019 Commencement Ceremony.
Born and raised in Farmington, Maine, Mills is also a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Boston.
Mills began her term as governor in January of this year after serving as the first woman to be elected as district attorney in New England for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. She has a long history of working in public service in Maine. She was first elected to the Maine House of Representatives in 2002 and also co-founded the Maine Women’s Lobby to advocate for battered and abused women, according to a story from the Office of Public Affairs.
This spring, Mills will also be delivering University of New England’s commencement address on May 18. She has previously spoken at graduation for Fisher College in Boston as well.
“As governor, I have the honor of attending and speaking at many events across the state, and I look forward to joining the University of Southern Maine to celebrate this important milestone with the students and their parents as well as the faculty and staff,” Mills said in an email.
Mills spoke about the challenges college students face. She quoted J.K. Rowling’s commencement address from when she spoke at Harvard University in 2008. “She spoke about failure, saying ‘…rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life,’” Mills said. She compared this to a quote from Winston Churchill, “That success is going from failure to failure without losing optimism,” said Mills.
One particular message that Mills thinks is important for college graduates to hear is to “Remember that in these moments of adversity, you can build character. Remember that out of your failures, you can build success. I hope that you are never afraid to fail and that you dare greatly,” she said.
During her time as governor, Mills wants to help students dealing with debt after graduation as well as help adults in getting access to affordable adult education. Mills has proposed a budget to increase funding for the University of Maine System, Maine’s Community Colleges, and Maine Maritime Academy, she said. “My budget also provides $3 million more for scholarships through the Maine State Grant Program to prevent students from going into debt,” Mills said.
As the first female governor of Maine, Mills also stands as an inspiration for those looking to go into public service. “The best public servants are those who listen, especially to people who disagree strongly with their beliefs, and use patience and persuasion to bring people together to find common ground,” she said.
It is a challenging field of work, Mills said, but public service can also be gratifying as you are able to help others. “Honing your ability to listen, solve problems, and seek out opinions different than your own will all serve you well in any career,” she said.
An ongoing challenge in Maine has been keeping young people in the state after they finish school to help grow Maine’s workforce. Mills hopes that many of this year’s graduates will continue to live and work in Maine.
“It is possible to pursue the career of your dreams, build a family, and succeed right here in Maine,” she said. “Our workforce and state need your talents, and I will continue to work to ensure Maine always welcomes you.”