This week I had the privilege of hearing one of Indiana’s most esteemed leaders, Congressman Lee Hamilton, who spoke at the annual Indiana Chamber dinner. As many will recall, the Honorable Congressman Hamilton served the 9th District from 1965-1999, now held by Congressman Todd Young and almost completely enveloping our House District 74 in which I serve. Today, at the age of 80, Congressman Hamilton directs the Center for Congress at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. where he and his wife now live. As a result, we have the privilege to continue to read his OpEds in our local papers and to be inspired by his political insights.
The packed house Wednesday evening, Democrat and Republican alike, were spellbound by his humble tone and wise words. Congressman Hamilton began with a reference to the state of our representative democracy by quoting President Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address, “testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” His talk was both optimistic and pessimistic filled with truth and mincing few words. He spoke of the tough times throughout our country’s young history: the Civil War, the Great Depression, World Wars, and the struggle for Civil Rights. He also shared his core belief that his role in Congress was to help the President be successful, whether of his party or not. Wise words for all of us no matter the level of government in which we interact. Our focus should be on how to make things work rather than placing blame or taking credit.
In the end, I believe Congressman Hamilton is asking each of us, citizens and elected officials alike, to choose our behaviors wisely. We can stubbornly stand apart or we can make an effort to work together. We can allow our philosophical differences to polarize or we can choose to respect the differences we bring and propel forward reasonable solutions that benefit the greater good.
As a still “wet-behind-the-ears” politician, I strive always to respect those I serve here at home, as well as those I serve alongside at the state house, with local government and within our congressional offices.
Enjoy the closing weeks of winter and enjoy the peak of an early spring for which we are being presented.