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Good morning. Thank you for joining me on this special weekend.

There’s much we could talk about, from Maine’s appearance in the Frozen Four, to the debate in the Maine Legislature over bonds, or the budget, or health care. We could talk about the first week of the baseball season, but I think I’ll refrain from that for a while.

As worthy as all of those topics are, none of them seem appropriate for today.

This weekend, Christians around the world will celebrate the most important holiday of the year for their faith – Easter.

We’re also in the midst of the eight-day celebration of Passover, when Jews remember their exodus and freedom from the slavery of ancient Egypt.

Regardless of your personal faith, Easter and Passover remind us of the opportunity for renewal, to reinvent ourselves, to be those things we all want to be – a better friend, or a better neighbor.

It’s no mistake that Easter comes in the early days of spring, at least here in Maine. The cold, gray days of winter are losing their grip, even if they aren’t entirely gone.

Everything feels possible.

It is the hope of a new day.

But during this time, we must also be mindful of the challenges, sacrifices and pain that we face around the world.

In the two millennia since the death of Jesus, the world has not been able to lay down the sword or to attain lasting peace.

On this holiday of rebirth and hope, U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines find themselves in places torn apart by violence and hate. Whether you agree with the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or not, our men and women are doing their duty and their best to bring peace to lands ripped open by strife.

Just this week, we laid to rest Sgt. Jason Swiger, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. Sgt. Swiger graduated from South Portland High School. He was killed in Iraq by a suicide bomber.

Sgt. Swiger is one of five men with Maine ties who have died while serving their country just since February.

We mourn each one, and honor their sacrifice, dedication and commitment to service and country. They are all heroes. And our prayers go out to their families and to the families of every person still serving in harm’s way.

As we join together with family and friends on the holy days of Easter and Passover, it’s appropriate for us to consider many of the common ideals that are shared across so many faiths.

During the Passover Seder, a traditional meal served on the first night of the holiday week, family and friends gather together to retell through symbols and ceremony the birth of the Jewish nation.

Through the asking and answering of four questions and the details of the meal, the story of the exodus is retold.

The elements of the Seder represent different aspects of the story. The evening is built upon keeping alive a shared history of upheaval and hope.

It’s a good lesson for all of us. It’s important to remember where we all came from as we try to chart our path into the future. And it’s important to know that even on the darkest night, the dawn will follow.

When I talk to the families who have paid such a high price for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I know that every day of this life is a gift that comes without any guarantees or promises.

It should be cherished and celebrated in the way we conduct ourselves, and in the deeds we undertake.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “It is in our lives and not our words that religion must be read.”

God bless you and happy Easter.

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