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Primary Source Walking ‘The Walk’
Cohen Walk

The William S. Cohen Papers in Special Collections in Fogler Library not only include documents and ephemera, such as this photograph from Cohen’s 600-mile walking tour through Maine’s Second District in 1972, but also artifacts, such as the shoes Cohen wore during the walk and a “honk-wave” campaign sign.

In the 1972 congressional campaign, William Cohen walked 600 miles across Maine’s Second District to meet and talk informally with constituents. The Walk, as it came to be known, took him through 47 Maine communities — from Gilead to Fort Kent. In subsequent campaigns for office, and even in nonelection years, walking through communities he represented as a “man of the people” became his signature. Cohen served in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1972–9, and the U.S. Senate, 1979–97, and as secretary of defense, 1997–2001. The William S. Cohen Papers in Special Collections in Fogler Library extensively document his nearly quarter-century of congressional service as well as his term in the Defense Department. His tenure included such landmark events as Watergate and the Iran-Contra Affair. The collection also covers a broad range of topics in Maine history marked by dramatic changes in the textile, energy and defense industries; healthcare reform; environmental issues; and concerns about government corruption and bureaucracy. One of the most recent donations to the collection occurred two years ago when Thomas Bright, Cohen’s former press secretary, added his papers, providing intriguing insight into the campaign that launched a Washington career. The Bright papers in the Cohen Collection reflect the inner workings of the campaign and interaction with members of the press in the 1970s.

Cohen wave sign

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Fall 2011

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