Saturday, March 8, 2014
Some Mainers might find Congressman Mike Michaud’s personal announcement last week surprising.
Rep. Mike Michaud has shown caring, commitment and hard work, says a former colleague who welcomes his candidacy.
David Leaming/Kennebec Journal
Yes, Maine has changed a lot in a few years. But character is constant, and it is character that counts.
Here is an example: When I was a newcomer legislator, I was lucky to be one of a half-dozen freshmen from all across Maine whom Mike Michaud took under his wing, teaching the ropes and how to navigate Augusta.
He was a busy man as chair of the almighty Appropriations Committee that controls the state purse strings in tight budget times. But he was always fair, forthcoming and found time for me and my colleagues and the causes we held dear.
Often my causes were not his; my questions never ended; but neither did his patience nor his good advice and encouragement to work hard for our beliefs and our districts.
Trust founded like that reveals character, and that constant has colored the work Michaud has done in public service ever since – and that I hope we, his former colleagues, learned from his example.
Orientation meant nothing when Michaud was driving a forklift at the mill in Millinocket or fighting for Maine in Washington. It is caring, commitment and hard work that count.
I salute his courage and welcome his candidacy. It was an honor to serve with him. It will be great to have him as governor.
Former state legislator
I imagine growing up gay in northern Maine is an incredible training ground for building strength, character and deep resilience.
If you are not a gay man, please stop for a moment and think about hearing these hurtful words repeated: homo, pedophile, pervert. Endurance of homophobia becomes an asset when one survives through both societal and internalized hatred to “come out” on a scale of this magnitude.
Regardless of how you vote, it is this endurance which all Maine people might try to understand as we comprehend Rep. Mike Michaud’s brave disclosure, which heterosexual candidates never have to even think about. Congratulations, Mike Michaud, you have already won. Best of luck, and thank you for your inspiring courage – may it lift all Mainers up toward deep truth.
Almost 30 years ago, when I began to see how things worked in Augusta, I learned that among the members of the Legislature were persons then described as “homosexual.” But in fact no one described these men as such: No matter how acrimonious things got (and there was acrimony aplenty in the ’80s and ’90s) no opponent, nor any rival, Democrat or Republican, ever (to my knowledge) used that information against them.
Everyone knew about it: all the Democratic and the Republican leadership, and the rank and file. At the tensest of times, I waited for someone to break that silence, but they never did, and I recall several times remarking to friends how proud I was that, in Maine, that line was never crossed. It seemed to reflect a basic decency and sense of fairness, and respect for each other’s privacy, that could be found throughout the state.
So seeing Mike Michaud declare openly that he is gay to ward off the whisper campaign begun by his opponents makes me sad. It brought to mind that chestnut from the McCarthy hearings in 1954, when Sen. Joseph McCarthy tried to berate and intimidate a witness for associating with a “communist-front organization.” Joseph Welch, head counsel for the Army, protested against the character assassination, finally asking the senator: “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”
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