Senator Angus King spoke to students and faculty at College of the Atlantic over the lunch hour last Thursday. His talk ranged from the opioid crisis to the Kavanaugh nomination to finding common ground in Washington. ISLANDER PHOTO BY BECKY PRITCHARD

King regales students with tales of Washington, offers “rays of hope

BAR HARBOR — U.S. Senator Angus King spent an hour talking to students, answering questions, and offering, in his words, “rays of hope” at College of the Atlantic last Thursday.

“It’s the conflict that always gets the press, but there is a lot of agreement as well,” King told a room of students and faculty. One example of agreement, King said: “The other day the Senate passed a big bill on the opioid crisis. It’s a big deal, and they passed it 99 to 1.”

Some things are hard, King acknowledged, such as amending the constitution, setting budgets, or deciding on issues like immigration and guns. Regardless, he told students, “There is hope; it’s not totally locked up. We don’t hate each other.”

King described the Senate Chamber as “like the dump on Saturday morning. There’s a lot of conversation.”

Still, King said, when he began his career as a Senate aide 40 years ago, the atmosphere in Washington was much different.

“When I worked there in the 1970s, almost all the senators lived in Washington,” he said. “They knew each other. They had relationships, they carpooled together.”

Now he said Senators have a schedule that allows them go home on the weekends, and their families never move to Washington, D.C. He said it is hard to talk about complex issues and find common ground “if you don’t have trust, confidence, and relationships with other people.”

For this reason, King said he has started hosting weekly dinners at his home in Washington, with take-out ribs from Kenny’s Smoke House down the street. Each week he invites four or five senators over, making sure his parties are bi-partisan. They talk about anything but politics. According to King, one senator said of another at a recent party, “I’ve seen this guy around here for eight years, and this is the first time we’ve talked.”

King answered questions on the environment, the Kavanaugh nomination, and the opioid crisis. He mentioned negative political ads, and how the Mainers he has talked to don’t like them.

“We tend to demonize other people, and that doesn’t solve problems,” he told the roomful of students.

“Don’t turn an opponent into an enemy. Try to find common ground, and quite often you will.”

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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