Lucye Rafferty/The Hoya Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) speaks about overcoming difficulties to win her Senate seat in McNeir Auditorium onday evening.

Senator Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) reflected on her successes and failures – and her ability to overcome them – during a speech that drew nearly 150 people to McNeir Hall Tuesday night.

Collins won her Senate seat in 1996 and was re-elected last November. She currently serves as chair of the Committee on Government Affairs in addition to serving on the Armed Services Committee, Special Committee on Aging and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

“Whatever your goal is in life, pursue it,” Collins said. “If I can go from Caribou, Maine, a place where I picked potatoes, to the U.S. Senate, we really do live in a country where hard work, persistence and education can take you wherever you want.”

Collins said she was proud to follow in the footsteps of famous aine senators, including Margaret J. Smith, the first woman elected to the Senate, Edward Muskie, George Mitchell and William Cohen.

“Margaret J. Smith, who served from before I was born, in 1949, until 1972, was known for being a strong woman representing aine and so it was never unusual for me to think that I could have any job that I wanted,” Collins said. “Today I look back and realize how fortunate it was to have a woman in the Senate to pave the way for me.”

Collins said that being a Republican from a liberal state has not been difficult because New England voters are typically moderates with fewer partisan attachments.

She also said that her Republican colleagues have been understanding about her position as a party moderate, discussing her role in not voting to convict former President Bill Clinton. “My colleagues respect the energy and thought that I put into every one of the issues debated in Congress,” Collins said. “Acquitting Clinton was the hardest vote of my life, because if I had been a juror, I would have convicted him absolutely, but I felt that the constitutional parameters of high crimes and misdemeanors did not quite fit with what he had been charged with.”

Collins put to rest any rumors that she might leave the Republican Party. “Never, ever, ever, have I been tempted to switch sides. My DNA reads moderate Republican and that will never change,” she said. “I believe it is unethical to run as a representative of one party and then six months later switch sides. The only exception would be to do what some Senators have done, which is to switch sides and resign and then run for re-election so that the voters have a choice.”

After working for former Maine Senator William Cohen for 12 years, she joined the cabinet of Maine Governor John McKernan in 1987 as Commissioner of Professional and Financial Regulation. In 1992, the first Bush administration appointed her to be New England Administrator of the Small Business Administration.

“In 1993, after Bush lost the [1992] election to Bill Clinton, we were all liquidated from our jobs. I was fired by fax, which I thought was kind of tacky,” she said. “That’s the reality of politics, when administrations come and go, but it’s still hard to take when you’ve done a good job.”

That year, Collins decided to run for governor of Maine. “I had never run for anything except student council, but when I looked at the other candidates – and it is kind of audacious of me to say this – I thought, `I have more to offer than these candidates,'” she said.

Collins said she ran against seven other candidates in the republican primary, six of which held legislative office in the state assembly. “Everyone was better known than I was, but I believed in myself . so I jumped in. It was a considerable financial sacrifice – I had no income coming in and I had to let my health insurance go, so I am one of the few members of the Senate who know what it is like to be uninsured,” she said. “But I persevered and I won the round.”

Collins had passed the first challenge, but the general election would prove to be more than she could handle. “The general election was really, really hard . and I didn’t do a good job uniting the Republican Party and producing a coherent message,” she said. “I not only lost, but I got clobbered. I finished third, behind the independent and the democrat, even though I beat the green party candidate. I would rather have had a different outcome, but I learned how to keep going and how to preserve. I never gave up.”

Two years later, Collins said she found herself contemplating a run for Senate when her former boss, Cohen, decided not to run for Senate. “It was a hard decision, but I though of the people who never do what they want to do in life, and they live their entire life suffering these big regrets. I didn’t want to sit in front of the fireplace when I was 85 thinking of what I could have done,” she said. “There’s no failing if you try, there’s only failure to not try.”

In the primary, Collins won in every county, defeating two multimillionaires in the contest. In the same election where Clinton handily defeated Bob Dole in Maine, Collins defeated her opponent, a former two-term governor and congressman, by five points. Collins took 58 percent of the vote in her bid for re-election last year. “If I hadn’t pursued my dream, I wouldn’t be in the Senate,” she said.

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