Director’s Report November 2014

Date: 
November 1, 2014 (All day)

Dear Friends:

Another general election has come and gone, and the fact that voter turnout nationwide on Nov. 4 was the lowest since 1942 reminds us that we must redouble our efforts to promote informed and active citizenship. We must work to recapture the American spirit of optimism that we can improve our own and others’ lives and deliver on our responsibility to future generations. 

That spirit is on the wane now. Partly, it’s the economy: The growing awareness of a lopsided society — one in which a rising tide fails to lift all boats — makes for a surly mood in the citizenry. I understand why so many are pessimistic, but I am more hopeful. Over the long reach of our history, we’ve learned time and again that when our political leaders focus on our challenges, and speak to one another directly, they can find solutions to our problems. It is true, though, that because of the scorched-earth political culture that reigns in Washington these days, it will take an especially engaged and determined public to demand of our leaders that they overcome their differences and make progress.

Fostering engaged and determined citizens who recognize that we are all in this together — that is at the core of everything we do at the Center on Congress. Thank you for supporting our efforts to make our democratic system work for every American. 

With warm regards,

Lee H. Hamilton

Director, Center on Congress at Indiana University

Teacher Outreach and Training. The Center participated in the just-completed annual conference of the Indiana Council for the Social Studies in Indianapolis. The theme of the conference was “The Changing ‘Face’ of Social Studies: Preparing Students for the Diverse and Changing World.” The Center presented information on our “Freedom Summer” learning module, a game-based interactive app that explores the relationship between the civil rights movement and Congress’s passage of civil rights legislation (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/freedom-summer-civil-rights/id893679666?... )…..Throughout the fall, the Center has kept up a busy schedule of professional development programs, helping 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. Two more training institutes are scheduled for Dec. 8-9 and Dec. 14-15. For more information, contact Charlene Volk at cvolk@indiana.edu, or call (812) 856-5751.

Media Seminar. Reporters covering Congress, mark your calendars for Monday, Feb. 2, when the Center will host its 10th annual seminar to help print, broadcast and online journalists in Washington understand the federal budget — how it comes together, and how to find good stories in it. The Center began hosting these free budget seminars in 2006, in furtherance of our mission to encourage more depth and perspective in media coverage of congressional action. Partnering with us again in 2015 will be longtime co-host, the National Press Foundation, along with the Regional Reporters Association and POLITICO. The venue is the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, in downtown D.C. For more information, contact Phil Duncan at pduncan@civicatalyst.com, or call (703) 237-1500.

Survey Research. The Center is now in the field with its annual public opinion survey examining the relationship between citizens and Congress — how people learn about, interact with, and evaluate the institution and its members. Since its founding in 1999, the Center has regularly conducted public opinion polls to gauge if Americans feel Congress is relevant to their lives and is living up to the framers’ expectation that it should be the responsive “people’s branch” of the federal government. Overseeing the Center’s survey work is our Director of Research Edward G. Carmines, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at IU Bloomington.

Civic Health. Work is nearing completion on a new installment of the Indiana Civic Health Index, with release of a report expected in early 2015. In 2011, the Center participated in the state’s inaugural INCHI effort, joining a coalition of Hoosier organizations committed to advancing active citizenship and civic education (see the 2011 index at http://bit.ly/1hooc6Q). Partners in the INCHI report (which draws on U.S. census data) include the Indiana Bar Foundation and IU Northwest, working in conjunction with the National Conference on Citizenship, a non-partisan, congressionally chartered organization that promotes civic and political participation, supports history and civics education, and encourages community and national service.

Hamilton in “Power 50.” The well-regarded Howey Politics Indiana newsletter recently celebrated its 20th anniversary by presenting a “Power 50” list, ranking the most influential Hoosier political figures of recent decades. Center Director Lee Hamilton ranked 14th, higher than any other person on the list who made his political career in the U.S. House. Almost 300 HPI subscribers participated in choosing the “Power 50,” which included members of the Indiana congressional delegation, governors, General Assembly leaders, mayors, party leaders and lobbyists. #1 on the HPI list was former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, who, along with Hamilton, is now a Distinguished Scholar in the IU School of Global and International Studies.