I participated in a Maine Calling show on Maine Public recently. Jennifer Rooks hosts the show, and she asked listeners to tell her the best advice they’d ever been given. Here’s my response.

My parents always encouraged me to set lofty goals and never give up on them. In school, that helped me play sports, play in the band, sing in the choir, and even serve as president of my class. I was also a 4-H Club leader. As an adult, that advice helped me be a good father and achieve a lot for my state. Even as I struggle with my illness, ALS, I set goals every day, including writing my weekly newspaper column, which I’ve been doing for more than 30 years. I am so grateful to my parents for sending me down this path.

Throughout my life, I often set goals that many would regard as impossible. A good example was in 1974, when I managed the congressional campaign of David Emery. We were two 25-year-old Republicans running against an incumbent Democrat, and nobody thought we had any chance of winning. We failed terribly at fundraising, raising only $38,000, not nearly enough to advertise our campaign. But we worked hard, never gave up, and — surprise! — we won.

During my years as a lobbyist at the Legislature, I’d often propose 25 or 30 bills — and work hard to win every one. It took me many years to convince the Legislature to approve the sportsmen’s license plate, and I was so pleased that in its second year, the sportsmen’s plate was the most popular in the state. I still smile every time I see that plate on a vehicle.

It also took me years to convince the Legislature to protect our native brook trout. This doesn’t mean I succeeded in enactment of every bill I proposed, but I never gave up on a single one.

One year, my wife Linda and I decided we wanted to permanently protect our wonderful woodlot on Route 41 in Mount Vernon. So we donated the woodlot to the Kennebec Land Trust, and they’ve done a great job, building a parking lot and some nice trails including a boardwalk through the bog. Not all of my goals were difficult to achieve.

The Kennebec Land Trust has a lot of nice hiking trails in our area, and a new hiking guide which you can get at local stores and their Winthrop office. You can also order it online at tklt.org.

When I left my job at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and started writing full time, some people thought I was crazy. But I quickly rounded up sponsors of my website, and more publications that paid for my columns, and 12 years later, I’m still writing and making money.

One of my toughest challenges was getting Linda to go out on a first date with me. I was dining in a Biddeford restaurant with a date when Linda came over to our table to talk with my date, because they’d been sorority sisters at the University of Maine.

I thought Linda was beautiful, so when she told my date her phone number, I memorized it, but when I called her a couple days later to ask her out, she declined. I didn’t realize until later that she’d asked her parents, who lived in Winthrop as I did, to check me out.

Thankfully, I was quite respectable, serving on the Winthrop Town Council and working for a member of Congress. So when I called her to try again, she agreed. And yes, this was my most important goal ever, and very lofty, and I’m so pleased I did not give up!

I guess I should thank my parents for my wonderful wife.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


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