By John Nicon and Cliff Argue
SEATTLE, WA – Former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (Maine) addressed a capacity audience in Seattle on November 6,on the topic “Anything is Possible: How to Overcome Obstacles and Make a Difference.” This was the first in the 2014-2015 public lecture series funded by the Jessie and John Danz Fund and sponsored by the University of Washington Graduate School, Alumni Association, Departments of Communication and Political Science and the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. The Jackson School houses the Hellenic Studies Program at the University.
At a reception preceding her presentation, Senator Snowe graciously met with about 50 friends and supporters of the Hellenic Studies Program and members of Seattle’s Greek community. Included were representatives from the Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State, the Juan de Fuca Chapter of AHEPA, and St. Demetrios and Assumption Greek Orthodox Churches. Snowe was honored with a bouquet of flowers by Associate Director Professor Saadia Pekkenen from the Jackson School, which is the home of the Hellenic Studies Program. John T. John, President of the Hellenes of the Northwest, the funding source for the Hellenic Studies Program, presented Sen. Snowe with a “300-Spartans” gold medallion, an award given to those who have provided significant support to the program.
With flags of the United States, Greece, and Washington State behind her, Snowe thanked the audience and specifically the Greek Community for their support and attendance at the event. She spoke of the contributions to liberty and democracy by her Greek ancestors, her early Greek upbringing, the tragedy of her parents’ deaths before her tenth birthday and her experience at St. Basil’s Academy in Garrison, NY. As a moderate Republican Greek woman from New England in the Senate, she referred to herself as a minority, within a minority within a minority. She credits her success partially to her Spartan tenacity and willingness to fight when necessary. She even kept a bust of Pericles in her conference room, which included a helmet that she often considered wearing on the Senate floor.
As a self-described “centrist,” Senator Snowe’s priorities in her 40 years of public service have been the country, her constituents and the Republican Party, in that order. She presented a number of humorous and telling anecdotes describing how, as a leading moderate Republican, she moved beyond partisan politics to accomplish meaningful legislation with members of both major parties in Congress. She believes the art of legislation, where elected officials learn to compromise without compromising their principles, has succumbed to the demands of fund raising and party alliances and an everlasting look toward the next election.
Snow strongly believes that change can come only from the outside of what is a self-serving Congress. Through her book Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress and as co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Commission on Political Reform, she advocates 65 recommendations to end the problems of divisive politics in our country. Among the recommendations are open primaries, broader voter involvement, independent redistricting committees and a “no budget/no pay” status for Congress.
Snowe’s presentation having been only a few days before Veteran’s Day, she praised military veterans and believes “there is no issue that unites us more as Americans than our gratitude and support of those who serve to protect our country, not just on Veterans’ Day, but every day.” In closing, she urged the audience not to think of the “red” and “blue” colors of the political parties, but of the “red, white and blue” of the American flag and its citizens.