Maine’s state motto is simple, declarative and fitting: Dirigo, or “I lead.” And that’s exactly right: For the last 200 years, Maine has led the way, economically, politically and socially.

Throughout its history, Maine has exemplified the best of America. Our immense natural treasures are surpassed only by the kindness, generosity and work ethic of our people. Since Sunday marks the start of the third century since the Pine Tree State was admitted to the United States, it is only fitting to look back on the people and events that have brought us to this milestone and look forward to all of the successes that lie ahead.

In the 200 years since it became the 23rd state, Maine has made major economic contributions to the nation. Maine people have proven to be resourceful, adaptable, gritty and hardworking – which, combined with our vast natural resources, have established the state as a leader in vital industries.

As the most forested state in the nation, Maine’s timber industry has thrived; with our thousands of miles of coastline, generations of Maine people have worked the waters and created one of the most lucrative and sustainable fisheries in the world. We have turned fertile farmland into a legacy of family farms and diversified agriculture, allowing Maine-grown food to be served across the nation, and harnessed unmatched scenery to establish our state as a leader in tourism, where visitors from around the globe wait all year to spend a week in Vacationland.

At the core of Maine’s success is an innate adaptability and determination extends to every part of our society – including our choice of leaders. For generations, Maine’s elected officials have emphasized common sense and problem-solving above all – traits drawn directly from the state’s voters and values.

The example set by Joshua Chamberlain, the Lion of Little Round Top – who led his men against impossible odds during the Civil War to strike major victories for the Union – exemplifies Maine’s focus on service over self. This legacy was furthered by Margaret Chase Smith as she stood up to the political powers of her day and chose country over party. There are so many other examples, from Ed Muskie to Bill Cohen to George Mitchell to Olympia Snowe, of how Maine’s leaders have championed some of the country’s most effective pieces of legislation by focusing on results over partisanship, wielding an outsized influence given Maine’s population.

It’s not just national, either; there are too many examples to list of state, tribal and local leaders who’ve stepped forward to create a better Maine for all of our people. This legacy of fighting to achieve the difficult right instead of settling for the convenient wrong speaks to the unique independence of Maine citizens, who have always voted based on ideas, not on party. This approach is far too infrequent in our political discourse – on this subject, as on most, the nation could use more of Maine’s sensibility.

I’ve always said that Maine is like a big small town, with very long streets – because no matter where you live in Maine, we are all neighbors, and we are all in service to each other. This focus on service is why Maine has long had one of the highest rates of veterans per capita, and it’s why cities and towns across Maine offer a wide range of resources to help lift up our fellow citizens struggling with challenges ranging from substance use disorders to unemployment to food insecurity.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to every corner and pocket of our state, from Kittery to Madawaska, Rangeley to Machias, to the tribal communities that continue to make vital contributions to our state and our culture. Even after all this time, the way our communities care for our own never ceases to amaze me. No matter if it’s a time of crisis or business as usual, Maine people are in it together. That’s a profoundly rare phenomenon – and we are infinitely better for it.

In these industries, and many more, Maine leads the way – and it all starts with the men, women and families who make up the fabric of our communities and set the standard for the way life should be.

So, regardless of which of the 16 counties you’re from, let us come together – as is the Maine tradition – and celebrate our great fortune to live, work and play in the greatest state in the nation. Happy 200th birthday, Maine, and thanks to each and every person who makes our state so special – thanks to your efforts, I am certain we will see history repeat itself as Maine embarks on another 200 years of prosperity, community, common sense and leadership.


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