Among the primary definitions of “hero”, according to Merriam-Webster, you’ll find “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities; a person who is greatly admired”. Personally, I believe “hero” has become one of the most over-used words in the English language—more often than not being applied to this or that sports or entertainment figure. I would argue that hitting a come-from-behind grand slam home run in the bottom of the ninth, or tossing a game-winning touchdown pass in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter do not define “heroic” actions. And while there may be a handful of truly talented actors, musicians, or artists whose work has the ability to touch or impact our lives in some fashion, would anyone argue that this would qualify them as “heroes”?
In recent years, I’ve asked myself if I’d even be able to recognize a genuine hero if I came face to face with one. In spite of a certain level of caution and cynicism on my part, I’m happy to say that the answer to that question is “yes”...right here in Maine, and a Democrat to boot!
Adam Cote grew up in a working class family in Sanford. He attended Colby College and shortly after graduation he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves. He served as a military policeman in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Bosnia from October, 1997 to April, 1998. That brutal conflict claimed over 100,000 lives and devastated the country. In the face of the deprivation faced particularly by the children, Adam organized a program in his platoon to provide toys and candy for local kids. He noted that while the program wasn’t life changing, “M&Ms and comic books really make their day”. He also worked at establishing scholarship opportunities for college-aged students who had the skills to study in the U.S., but lacked the funds.
After returning from Bosnia, Adam received his law degree (cum laude) from the University of Maine School of Law, and began practicing with Pierce Atwood LLP in Portland. His focus was on real estate law, as well as domestic and international energy policy—with an emphasis on renewable energy.
From March 2004 until March 2005, Adam’s unit (Maine Army Guard’s 133rd Engineer Battalion) was deployed to serve in Iraq. As a platoon leader, Adam led over 100 convoys and oversaw numerous reconstruction efforts—including the construction of schools and clinics. He created and spearheaded the “Adopt an Iraqi Village” program, which distributed school supplies and other items to destitute Iraqis. On December 21, 2004, Adam was in the mess hall on the U.S. base in Mosul when a suicide bomber walked in and blew himself up—killing or wounding over one hundred soldiers and civilians. Adam was awarded an Army Commendation Medal for his leadership during this attack.
Upon his return from Iraq, Adam resumed his law practice. In 2008, he joined Global Relief Technologies, serving as Senior Vice President. His responsibilities included managing, overseeing and building upon GRTs’ local, state and federal emergency management initiatives. He worked closely with the American Red Cross, the National Guard, and numerous emergency management related organizations throughout the country. Adam was at the forefront of the company’s response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2009, using satellite-linked handheld computers to gather information on amputees for Healing Hands for Haiti and Handicap International.
Adam was a Democratic candidate in Maine’s 1st congressional district 2008 race. He sought the nomination to replace the incumbent, Tom Allen, who was running for the Senate. In a field of six, Adam Cote finished a strong second to eventual winner Chellie Pingree. Soon after this foray into public service, Adam and business partners founded Thermal Energy Storage of Maine. The company sells electric thermal storage furnaces and room heaters that allow users to purchase less-expensive electricity at off-peak hours and store it for later use. Adam notes that “Maine is number one in the country for home heating oil… we’re not even close to being second. And of course we get hit every time there’s a crisis in the Middle East, every time there’s a shortage, every time there’s an executive driving up the price—we get hit the worst in Maine.” Adam is determined to do something that helps Maine become more energy independent, and his efforts were recently acknowledged by the White House when Adam was honored on November 13, 2013 as one of 12 Veterans advancing Clean Energy and Climate Security. He was acknowledged as a “Champion of Change”. Unfortunately, Adam was unable to receive this honor in person since the 133rd Engineer Battalion had deployed to Afghanistan in the fall of 2013. Adam participated in the ceremony via Skype.
When I first began blogging, it provided an outlet for the frustration I was feeling. Like many others, I was appalled at the gridlock in Washington, and found myself especially disgusted by Tea Party extremists who view compromise as some form of treason. Additionally, I was mortified at having been thoroughly conned by Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards; and my anger towards myself persists to this day. I was, as the name I chose for my blog indicates, “Missing Mister Smith”. I never expected to recapture the sense that we as individuals could make a difference, and I certainly never thought I'd believe once more that someone running for office might actually encompass the values I had been raised with. It's clear there is far more to Adam Cote than any blog posting might convey, but if you get a sense of his decency, pragmatism,and work ethic, then I’ve at least accomplished something! I hope that at some point Adam will share his amazing story in greater detail; it’s very much the “American life” we used to read about.
Shortly before the Maine 133rd Engineering Battalion safely returned home(thank God)this past month, Captain Cote had organized--and run--a "shadow " Boston Marathon with eight others to honor the victims of last year's tragic events. I was moved, but hardly surprised as I read the story. Adam's good karma apparently only continues to accumulate.
I owe Adam Cote a major debt of gratitude for restoring my faith in the decency and potential of people, and in recognizing that there are still flesh and blood heroes among us. Somewhere down the road, when he's had ample time--and then a little bit more--to reconnect with his wife and five children, I hope to have the opportunity to shake his hand, and simply say "thank you".