AU celebrates Lee Hamilton's service

Former 9/11 Commission vice chair receives university recognition

AU's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies presented former congressman Lee Hamilton with the Distinguished Public Service Award at the center's 25th anniversary celebration Nov. 16.

Hamilton is the president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and also commits time to the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies and the School of Public Affairs. He has lectured on campus and received an honorary degree from AU last spring.

"The center has never shied from the tough issues," said Hamilton at the event. "In recent years, I have been pleased to see the center focus on the conduct of political campaigns and the role of public advocacy in our democracy - two issues that have a profound effect on governance in this country."

At the celebration, Hamilton also said he was worried that politics had "tilted too far toward honoring the art of winning and too far away from the art of compromise."

"Winning is important, but when politics becomes poisoned by partisanship and nastiness, we lose the ability to build consensus," Hamilton said. "Diverse opinions are no longer represented in the public realm. Public policy no longer reflects the views of all Americans."

He also suggested that he would like to see a return to "civility, bipartisanship, good process and the centrality of checks and balances in the American constitutional system."

"Those of us who are concerned about civic engagement and rational discourse can give thanks for the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies," Hamilton said. "You shine light where too often there is only heat, and you improve the very institutions that you study."

Hamilton began his political career as an Indiana congressman. He served as chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and chaired the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East from the early 1970s until 1993.

Hamilton also served as a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century and was co-chair with former Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) of the Baker-Hamilton Commission to Investigate Certain Security Issues at Los Alamos. He was appointed vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission.

"Lee Hamilton is a statesman who should be praised for his great comity, civility and bipartisanship during his many years of public service," said professor James A. Thurber, the center's director, in a press release. "There has never been a question that his views were motivated by anything but principle and commitment to the national interests, and we are honored to acknowledge Lee for his years of public service"

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