Remarks of Janet T. Mills upon being sworn in as Maine’s 55th Attorney General
January 6, 2009
Gov. Baldacci, distinguished guests, family and friends, you have no idea how grateful I am to be here today. My life’s path has led me here.
And I am so happy to be here. And my mother, going on 92 years young, is also very happy to be here.
She is particularly excited that I will be serving on the Baxter Park Authority, fulfilling the prophecy she made decades ago, that I would be “forever wild.”
I am grateful for the presence of my husband Stan, who has been so patient and supportive, my stepdaughters and good friends—Lisl, Tammy & Coleen; and my brother, Sen. Peter Mills, with whom I have worked for the past fourteen years and who has taught me more than he’ll ever know about the practice of law and life; my accomplished brother, author, historian and attorney, Paul Mills; and my sister, “surgeon general” Dora Mills. I regret that my brother David could not be with us today.
I want to express my gratitude to Steve Rowe, who has been so gracious and generous with his time, and who has directed this office with such leadership, common sense and care; who is obviously so well loved in return by his staff and whom we will greatly miss in state government, at least for now.
These constitutional offices, the Atty. General, the Treasurer, the Sec. of State, are a hybrid of the three branches of our government. They are elected by the Legislature, subject to the Judiciary, serving the Executive.
Like the crossed rafters and beams, the trusses, of an old Maine barn, the three branches that support and sustain our government are equally strong, equally important, resilient and interdependent.
And the constitutional officers, I believe, are the brackets, the wedges, the independent glue that secures those beams, that fixes them to the solid long ridge beam that is our Constitution.
The integrity and hard work of these offices keeps our Constitution strong, our people confident in their government.
The oath I have just taken is the same oath taken by Nathan Clifford in 1834. Mr. Clifford served as Attorney General for three years and went on to be a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
It is the same oath that was taken by William Frye, former Mayor of Lewiston, co-founder of Bates College, who became the longest serving Mainer in the Congress of the United States.
It is the same oath taken by Thomas Brackett Reed of Portland, who became one of the most powerful people in the country as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington, and was a close friend of Mark Twain.
It is the same oath taken by William R. Pattangall of Waterville and Pembroke who served two different terms as Attorney General and who became the Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Court. You know, the Attorney General was then a part-time position and he used to ‘ride circuit’ with the judges and try cases across the state. And Pattangall tried about 15 cases in one term this way.
Whatever those men accomplished in later years, they took their duties as Attorney General seriously. It is a position that can do great things for the people of Maine.
In reviewing my own place in the history of this office, something stood out, of course… something that makes me different and unique…
Yes,..out of the long line of Attorneys General down through history, 55 individuals over 188 years of our state’s corporate existence, I am the first and only Attorney General…from Franklin County.
There have been 14 AGs from Portland and 6 from Bangor, 32 from elsewhere.
I am from the foothills of Western Maine, a place where we look up to the mountains; where we look down and across onto the cities in the lowlands; where the sunsets are bright, snow aplenty, and the soil is still good for growing; where the river bottoms are lined with ocean sand from some ancient glacier deposit; where there are four definite seasons… seasons of swimming, hunting, skiing and planting.
Today, we are in a season of change, regardless of the calendar. Here and in our nation’s capital, we are moving the goals, challenging the agenda, taking new roads.
The road I take is one that will open opportunities for every girl growing up in this state who once had dreams but who had to put them aside.
I ran for office because I believed I was the most qualified person for the job. And I hope that history proves it so.
I also ran for every Maine woman and girl who grows up in the shadows of Margaret Chase Smith and who seeks opportunity in this state.
I stand here on behalf of children like my 6-year old niece Julia, who will grow up competing on an equal footing with her wonderful brother Anthony.
Julia, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t compete—with friends, classmates, and others, regardless of where they are from, regardless of the color of their skin, their race, their religion, their gender, orientation or beliefs.
Julia dear, today we begin to color outside the lines. We are changing the lines, redrawing the lines. Not cutting corners, but improving the road, expanding the landscape,...the way an Aroostook County sunrise enlarges the horizon.
We are changing something about what is ‘normal,’ about what is expected and of whom it is expected, here and around our country.
I know that whatever I am able to achieve in this position will be not because of who I am but because of what I do.
Today I begin what I have referred to fondly, and with some anticipation, as running the largest law firm in the State of Maine.
Today I begin the job of litigating, negotiating, arbitrating, mitigating,--the job of resolving differences, of defending the people, of heading up a team of men and women who will represent the face of Maine people in the courts and in the public eye.
And we will do so with integrity and with honor, in order to hold the beams and trusses of government sturdy against the strongest of winds.
Much of what we will do will not be heard or heralded. There will be few victory speeches for the lives that are not lost; for the businesses and consumers made whole; for the workers returned to a job; for the child no longer abused; for the tribal member whose voice is heard; or for a citizen not denied due process.
This will be our quiet work—solving problems diligently before they are known, not because they are known.
And if we may touch one life and make it better, if I may change the course of this state in some small way, if we can make people feel just a bit better about living and working in our state…if I can make that difference, I will count my career, my life, a success, without more.
And I will always count myself so lucky to be standing here today, in this historic Chamber, in the cross beams, if not the cross hairs, of the three branches of government, taking the profound oath of my predecessors before this most distinguished audience.