Luck Makes the Man

His story isn’t new. However, it’s one that’s been embellished. Sometimes it’s important to shine a little truth around, to at least temper some of the misinformation.

I find it telling that Governor Paul LePage, the recipient of largesse from benefactors when he was in his teens, continues to further his own twisted ideology and war on the poor, this time on the backs of 19 and 20-year-olds. In essence that’s what he attempted to do, except that a federal appeals court ruled that it was illegal, on Monday.

In Colin Woodard’s lengthy, two-part profile on LePage back in January 2012, “The Making of Paul LePage, for the pre-Portland Sun, Portland Phoenix, we learn that the governor nearing his high school graduation at 18, had “poor grades.” He’s also admitted that “his verbal score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) was just 300. He had been involved in no extra-curricular activities. A high-school guidance counselor advised him to become a painter, like his father.” There’s nothing there to indicate that the young LePage had much going for him. He certainly wasn’t “job-ready” for the jobs available to many 19 and 20-year-olds today. Back in 1966, however, there were plenty of factory jobs and others for an 18-year-old to eke out a living, doing.

Of course, we now know that fate intervened for 18-year-old Paul LePage. Instead of becoming a working stiff, he rose up through the ranks of the white collar world, ascending to the governorship of Maine.

LePage had a benefactor named Peter Snowe (the late first husband of former Senator, Olympia Snowe—Peter died in a car accident in 1973, and Olympia ran successfully to replace him in the Maine House), who had just won a seat in the state legislature. He rescued LePage from a fate that most lousy high school students with 300 SAT scores face—a life of work, if they’re lucky. They rarely become governor, and get to piss down the backs of others who weren’t as fortunate (lucky).

But back to the “story.” Snowe told LePage to “find a college that will accept you, and I will make sure your first year is paid for.”

LePage apparently applied to 50 schools, and received 50 rejection letters. Again, his “angel,” Snowe, intervened. He advocated on LePage’s behalf with the founder of Husson College in Bangor, Chesley Husson, to “grant his lanky young mentee an interview. “

Husson met with LePage and agreed to bend the rules, allowing him to take an aptitude test in French. According to Woodard’s article, LePage indicates, “I did very well and they accepted me,” LePage noted that he was placed on academic probation “so they could bounce me if I didn’t live up to the grade.”

From LePage’s own lips, he admitted to a Tea Party gathering in January, 2010 that “If it wasn’t for Peter Snowe, seriously, I would still be in generational poverty. I would still be on the streets and I would still be on welfare.”

The reality for most of the 19 to 20-year-olds that the governor wants to yank the safety net out from under, they are far from being “job-ready” (a term Mary Mayhew and other LePage lackeys like to throw around).

This would simply relegate them fates like homelessness, and certainly not a successful future like he was offered through the largesse of people like Peter Snowe and others. That’s far from the norm, and was an example of lady luck smiling down on the governor.

Of course, now that he’s been successful and benefited from good luck, he prefers to deny others the basics, who aren’t quite as lucky. What does that say about a man like Paul LePage, and all those who applaud his heartlessness?

3 thoughts on “Luck Makes the Man

  1. Since no one ever reads the Horatio Alger stories, this is one–boy attracts attention of well-placed industrial boss, boss elevates boy to new higher level, boy marries boss’s daughter. Success! The “by the bootstraps” approach is in fact never seen in the Horatio Alger novels.

    But that said, I’m confused here. Something about the young Lepage stood out to Snowe, what was it? How is the French-speaking Lepage’s story any different (disinterest in school, nothing wrong with that, and English as a second language) than that of a Latin American immigrant who impresses someone with his talent despite his otherwise poor markers? If Lepage actually applied to 50 colleges, that in itself is impressive, an indicator of how hard he was willing to work. I know you and I didn’t apply to that many colleges, but then we had sure things, and Lepage didn’t.

    I also don’t see how government largesse is comparable to the largesse of a benefactor. The first involves force (pay us money to give to someone else, however unworthy, or we send you to jail), and the other involves the free choice of a free individual. Maybe others would have been better recipients of Snowe’s largesse, but he chose Lepage for his own reasons, and that has made all the difference for Lepage and for Maine. If we’re going to be angry with anyone, shouldn’t it be Snowe and not Lepage?

    From afar it appears that Lepage, like many who benefited from a mentor and sponsor, appears to have behaved like Captain Ahab, ascending to the crow’s nest and pulling up the ladder behind him. But for all I don’t approve of Lepage’s political positions, I can’t fault him for jumping on an opportunity given to him.

    • LP,

      One thing that I noted the first time I read Colin Woodard’s LePage profile is that there had to be a charisma and some attraction that others saw in the young man, and certainly after that. I’ve only seen his angry, blustering side, up close and also, from a distance. Actually, his campaign team did a nice job of personalizing the man and making him seem very human with some of the campaign ads that ran just prior to the election. The spot that his wife did, saying that the real Paul LePage is the one you see “when he’s around children,” or something to that effect. That might be so.

      Back to the Woodard two-parter for a moment–when LePage was running the Husson student newspaper, I can see this young college student, hustling his ass off, writing stories, cranking out copies (probably on a copy machine), and learning what it takes to make a success of yourself in America, the land of the hustle.

      However, why the hell does his political, blathering side come across as so damn cruel and callous? Or rather, why can’t he see that finding a way to help people first satisfy the essential needs of Maslowe’s hierarchy are required, before many can then take the next steps towards success, just like he was able to.

      The reality for most is that there are no Peter Snowes out there for them. Certainly not for the 1.6 million teens that are homeless and on America’s mean streets on any given night. We could all find jobs for them, making in excess of a living wage tomorrow, and most would last about three days, if not three minutes.

  2. I suspect Lepage is the victim of his beliefs and lack of imagination. Once one buys into certain beliefs, religiously held, about the order of society and work, certain consequences follow. There certainly is the reality, as you seem to allude to in your last sentence, that the mindset that allowed him to take advantage of Snowe’s offer and maximize its return through his own hard work seems to have disappeared from younger generations. I find myself wavering between “You can get there if you work at it,” and “Why work, sucker, they’ve already got you by the short hairs.” Somehow, I don’t think either observation is really true.

Comments are closed.