We recently caught up with one of our most illustrious graduates, former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton ’52, who during 34 years as the congressman from Southern Indiana became internationally known as an expert on foreign affairs. We asked him to reflect on current events in Washington D.C. Here’s what he had to say:
“I’m very discouraged. The system is not working well. The problems just keep coming at us and we seem to be focused on ourselves. We’re staring at our own navels. We’re not dealing with the problems we should be dealing with.
“We’re in a period of dysfunctionality. Politicians have never been popular, particularly, but they’re more unpopular than usual now. They are not giving me the impression and, I think, most people, of really cracking down and trying to deal with the problems that confront the nation – inequality of wealth, climate change, all kinds of economic and fiscal problems and cultural divisions. The country really is, I think, under great stress and it’s a serious problem developing. There have always been rhythms to American political life but we’re in a rut right now and we’ve got to come out of it.”
How? “You just have to reignite the energy and the focus on solving the problems that are before us. We have to understand that we have to work together. We cannot solve it as Democrats or Republicans. If you look at the achievements of the Congress over the decades, what impresses you is almost all of the really big achievements – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the GI Bill, etc. and so forth – were bipartisan and we have to look to that. It’s a little simplistic to say bipartisanship is key but it is, and people want it and we have to understand that that takes compromise and negotiations.
“It’s a skill that our politicians have ignored or lost for whatever reason and we have to get back to the old ways of doing things. For over 200 years we developed – with a lot of bumps along the way, including the Civil War – a system that works reasonably well. A system of public dialogue, discussion, compromise and negotiation. We have to get back to it. We will, I believe, but we’re in a rough patch.”
(pictured above l to r, are former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, both of Indiana, and Miranda S. Spivack)