Director’s Report December 2014

Date: 
December 1, 2014 (All day)

Dear friends: 

As I write this, we’re just a week away from the swearing-in of a new Congress, the 114th. When I served in Washington, there was a certain innocence that marked the first day of a new Congress: Members and their families would fill the floor. You could read both awe and giddiness on the faces of those who were there for the first time. Even among those who'd been around a while, you’d sense a hopefulness that the institution would measure up to its responsibilities. A new Congress meant a fresh start.

These days, the entire country could use a strong dose of that hopeful spirit. In 2015, will the two parties work more closely together in Washington to move the country forward, or will they instead lapse back into confrontation and deadlock? In an era when slamming the other guy seems to be the highest political value, maybe it’s too much to expect Congress to set a better example. But as the new year begins, let us all — citizens and politicians — resolve to strive for a higher standard in our civic discourse. 

Below are highlights of the Center’s recent efforts to make civic education more compelling, and to encourage a more substantive and reasoned dialogue about meeting our nation’s challenges, both domestically and abroad.

Thank you for your interest and support.

With warm regards,

Lee Hamilton

Director, Center on Congress at Indiana University

Training teachers to use digital sources. The Center concluded a busy year of professional development programs with two more sessions in December, to help teachers of government, social studies and U.S. history become conversant in the classroom use of the Center’s online resources and the Library of Congress’s extensive digital primary source materials. Feedback from participants was very positive. “I’m amazed to see the primary source material available to teachers,” said one participant. “I can’t wait to use the LoC website!” said another. 

The sessions, in Indianapolis and Bloomington, were conducted by the Center’s Charlene Volk, Implementation Manager for our partnership with the Library’s Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) education initiative.

Margaret Warner is newest Hamilton Fellow. On Feb. 2, the Center and the IU Media School co-host a visit to IU Bloomington by Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist Margaret Warner, who is chief foreign correspondent for the Public Broadcasting Service’s NewsHour program. In recent years, Warner’s overseas reporting has taken her to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, China, Kenya and Iran. While on campus, she will meet with students and faculty, deliver a public lecture, and receive the Lee H. Hamilton Public Service Fellowship plaque. 

Warner is the fourth Hamilton Fellow, following broadcast journalist and author Jim Lehrer; David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times; and David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist and author.

Online audience continues to grow. Visits to the Center’s flagship website (www.centeroncongress.org) reached an all-time high in November, topping 58,000, with peak usage on Nov. 5, the day after the mid-term election. The website is a gateway to all the Center’s resources for teachers and students, including our very popular interactive learning modules on Congress. 

Also, with more than 2,000 downloads, the Center’s “Congressional Moments” app took over the #1 spot for all Indiana University apps in the app store. The app uses an array of photographs and other primary source images from the Library of Congress to show that our lives are profoundly shaped by the actions of the national legislature. It offers an interactive tour of landmark congressional accomplishments in six areas — child labor laws, civil rights legislation, women’s suffrage, the Marshall Plan, the National Park Service, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

And finally, we count continued growth in our followers on Facebook, where we post regularly about Center resources and programs, and invite comments about Congress, civic education, and the citizen’s role in representative democracy. “Like” us on Facebook at “Center on Congress at Indiana University.”

Hamilton commentaries. The latest of Lee Hamilton’s periodic commentaries on foreign policy for the Huffington Post was published Dec. 4. In “Why Do They Hate Us?”, Hamilton tackles this question: “Considering all of the time, money and top policy people we have poured into addressing the problems of the Middle East over decades, why is there such widespread hostility toward us?...Why do the Arabs hate us so much?” http://huff.to/1wwsTQO

In January, Hamilton begins the 17th year of writing his “Comments on Congress” columns, about the role and functioning of the legislative branch, and about the obligations of citizenship. The columns, written twice-monthly, are widely published by print and online media outlets across the country. 

Support for the Center. We deeply appreciate the generosity of the foundations and individuals who provide supplemental funds to help us promote civic engagement and improve the public’s understanding of Congress. To boost the Center’s capacity to reach more people with our educational resources and programs, our website features a “Give Now!” button, enabling online giving. Please click and give, to help us revitalize representative democracy.