Director’s Report April 2014

Date: 
April 1, 2014 (All day)

Dear friends: 

One of the things I most enjoy about working on the campus of a large university is having the opportunity to reach out to young adults with the message that public service is a worthwhile calling, one that can be very fulfilling and even exciting. Earlier this week in Bloomington, it was my pleasure to host a visit to the IU campus by key White House aide Ben Rhodes, who is powerful proof that much can be accomplished by devoting one’s intellect and energy to service in government.

Less than ten years ago, Ben was a young member of my staff at the Woodrow Wilson Center, in Washington, D.C. Today, he is Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, profiled in The New York Times as a man with “a soft voice, strong opinions and a reputation around the White House as the man who channels Mr. Obama on foreign policy.” TIME magazine included Ben in its “40 Under 40” list of powerful and prominent young professionals.

Among the students who got to listen to and talk with Ben while he was on campus, it’s possible that there is, in the making, a smart and thoughtful advisor to some future president. I hope so. Of course, it’s the rare individual who will work in the West Wing (or even wants to). That’s all right: What’s important is that each of us contributes to the public good in our own way — that we commit to being informed and engaged citizens who devote a share of time to strengthening our communities, states, and nation.

Below are highlights from Center staff about our recent activities. Thank you for your interest and support. 

With warm regards,

Lee Hamilton

Director, Center on Congress at Indiana University

Ben Rhodes in Bloomington: At Hamilton’s invitation, Rhodes was on campus April 6-7; his itinerary was designed to let students visit with him in small-group and classroom settings — as Hamilton described it, “a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn from and converse with someone who is working at the highest level in the executive branch, helping shape and communicate American foreign policy.”

Rhodes’ visit was supported with funding from IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), where Hamilton serves as a Professor of Practice. In settings that included a pizza dinner, breakfast, and classroom sessions, Rhodes met with students in public policy, journalism and business, in the Hutton Honors College, the Wells Scholars Program, and the Political and Civic Engagement program. MJ Slaby of the Bloomington Herald-Times covered Rhodes’ visit (http://www.heraldtimesonline.com/), writing that Rhodes “said he could tell the students he spoke to were informed about public policy and wanted to know ways they can apply their interests after college.” Background information is at http://bit.ly/1lEo88b

Civics Renewal Network: As a partner in the Civics Renewal Network (CRN), the Center is helping to plan and organize a series of events to celebrate the anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in 1788. The events on Constitution Day, Sept. 17, 2014, will include: a reading of the Preamble to the Constitution by students across the nation; naturalization ceremonies at iconic sites throughout the country; and activities in Washington D.C. for civics students and teachers representing all 50 states. The Center is one of more than two dozen organizations in the Civics Renewal Network, brought together by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania to promote educational resources about the three branches of government and to strengthen civic life in America.

Global online audience: Visitors from 182 countries and territories have come calling to the Center’s flagship website (www.centeroncongress.org), according to data collected for the first quarter of 2014. In three months, there were more than 104,000 users of the site, a 23 percent increase over first-quarter 2013. The website is a gateway to all the Center’s resources for teachers and students, including our very popular interactive learning modules on Congress.

We see continuing growth in our number of followers on Facebook, where we post regularly about our resources and programs, and invite comments about Congress, civic education, and the citizen’s role in our democracy. “Like” us on Facebook at “Center on Congress at Indiana University.”

Professional development for teachers: Center staff will be in Gary, Ind. next week to conduct a training session for pre-service teachers, part of our continuing partnership with the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) program. In addition to providing training on our own online resources, the Center works in partnership with the TPS program to increase awareness of the Library’s educational initiatives and to encourage teachers to use the Library’s extensive digital primary source materials….Coming soon: News for teachers about the opportunity to apply for “Teaching with Primary Sources Summer Institutes” on the IU-Bloomington campus. Stay tuned!

Hamilton Commentaries: The Huffington Post on April 3 published the latest of Hamilton’s periodic commentaries on foreign policy, titled “Achieving Long-term Stability in Ukraine Is Key to Navigating Watershed Moment in East-West Relations.” An excerpt: “We will not — and should not — go to war [with Russia] over the occupation of Crimea. However, that occupation should be punished, and Putin should be discouraged from future actions through economic force. Our policy will have to be selective and nuanced, with a mixture of containment, engagement, isolation and punishment strategies.” Read the full piece at http://huff.to/1il8UPS

Hamilton’s twice-monthly columns about Congress and citizenship continue to be widely published by newspaper editors across the country. His two most recent columns focused on improving government performance. In “Fixing Congress,” Hamilton wrote: “Members of Congress are there primarily to legislate — not to raise money or score political points on television. Yet Congress seems to devote less and less time to crafting and passing legislation; it needs to work harder at the job Americans expect.” http://bit.ly/1pb6GVL

In “Time to Fix Government,” Hamilton wrote: “Our government has become so big, complex, and riddled with competing agendas that its ability to execute faithfully the law is terribly compromised. We have to rethink and transform how government does its business.” http://bit.ly/OdWjok

Speaking engagements: On campus March 11, students in a SPEA Senior Seminar on public policy making heard Hamilton share his thoughts on the factors that influence how a politician decides to vote on issues….On March 13, Hamilton was in Merrillville, Ind., to deliver the keynote speech at the 4th annual Ethics in Government Breakfast, hosted by the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission (SEAC). Local governments in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties work together in SEAC to raise awareness of ethical issues in municipal government and help their employees make ethical decisions.

Support for the Center: Prominent Indianapolis businessman Jeffrey H. Smulyan hosted an April 1 luncheon where attendees heard from Hamilton about the Center’s work and plans, and the resources needed to accomplish our goals of promoting civic engagement and improving the public’s understanding of Congress. Smulyan is Chairman, President and CEO of Emmis Communications Corp., a radio and magazine publishing company with operations in nine U.S. markets.

To boost the Center’s capacity to reach more people with our educational resources and programs, we have added to our website a “Give Now!” button, enabling online giving. It’s in the middle of the website homepage; please click and give to help us revitalize representative democracy.

MPSA President Carmines: The Center is pleased to congratulate our Director of Research, Professor Edward G. Carmines, as he assumes the presidency of the Midwest Political Science Association. The MPSA, founded in 1939, is a non-partisan professional association of political science scholars and students that promotes the study and teaching of the discipline and develops standards for research in theoretical and practical political problems. 

In addition to overseeing the Center’s opinion-survey work and other activities, Carmines is Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Warner O. Chapman Professor of Political Science and Rudy Professor at Indiana University, and he is director of IU’s Center for American Politics. His research focuses on American politics, especially elections, public opinion, and political behavior. (http://polisci.indiana.edu/faculty/profiles/carmines.shtml)