FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March, 31 2014
Contact: Kevin Coburn, Director of Communications
Sen. Patrick Leahy is Green Mountain College's 2014 Commencement Speaker
POULTNEY -- Green Mountain College’s 2014 commencement speaker is the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. A longtime champion of environmental protection, constitutional rights, human rights and Vermont’s agricultural heritage, Leahy will address GMC graduates at the College’s 177th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 17 at 10 a.m. Leahy will also receive an honorary doctor of laws degree from GMC.
A native Vermonter who grew up in the shadow of the State House in Montpelier, Leahy graduated from Saint Michael's College and earned his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. He served for eight years as State's Attorney in Chittenden County and was selected as one of three outstanding prosecutors in the United States in 1974.
Leahy was elected to the Senate in 1974 and remains the only Democrat elected to this office from Vermont. At 34, he was also the youngest U.S. senator ever to be elected from the Green Mountain State. Now, as President Pro Tempore, Leahy is the second-highest-ranking official the Senate and third in the line of presidential succession. He serves as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is the senior-most member of the Appropriations and Agriculture Committees.
Active on human rights issues and an advocate for the innocent civilian victims of war, Leahy has been the leading U.S. official in the international drive to end the production, export and use of anti-personnel land mines. He created a program to help civilian war victims, and today the Leahy War Victims Fund – named for him by his Senate colleagues – each year provides up to $14 million of relief to these victims.
As a former prosecutor and protector of crime victims’ needs, Leahy last year won enactment of his bill to strengthen the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). A leader on Internet and technology issues, Leahy is the Senate’s leading champion of open government. In 1996 he was installed into the Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame and is one of only two politicians ever awarded the John Peter Zenger Press Freedom Award. His bill to protect the privacy of Americans’ email is now pending before the Senate, and his bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act is considered the leading bill now pending before Congress to scale back and reform the nation’s secret and burgeoning electronic surveillance programs.
Always ranked among the top environmental legislators by the nation's conservation organizations, Leahy has spearheaded federal-level efforts to clean up Lake Champlain and has led congressional efforts to tackle the dangers of mercury pollution. He has worked to add more than 125,000 acres to the Green Mountain National Forest, an accomplishment matched by few lawmakers of any era.
A cosponsor and conferee on the recently enacted Farm Bill, Leahy is a leader on dairy policy, conservation, rural economic development, and nutrition issues and is the “father” of the national organic standards and labeling program.
“Senator Leahy has been a great friend to Green Mountain College and higher education,” said GMC President Paul Fonteyn. “He demonstrates the courage, fairness and dignity that is so often lacking in the legislative process today. He is a great example to our students of lifelong service for the betterment of the public good.”
The outdoor ceremony on the Griswold Library lawn is open to the public (in the case of inclement weather, ticketing is required for the indoor venue, Waldron Gymnasium).