Fall 2009 Newsletter
From the Director...
Dear Fellow Citizens:
One of my objectives in establishing the Center 10 years ago was to impress upon Americans that they should watch Congress more closely, and engage with their representatives more actively, because what Congress does has a significant impact on our lives every day.
This mission is especially timely now, as lawmakers work on a wide range of difficult, high-profile issues that touch all of us — health care, the environment, the economy, foreign policy, and so on. The Center, of course, takes no position on what policies are appropriate on these and other issues. Our job is to teach young people and adults how to understand the way Congress does its policymaking work, and how to communicate their concerns to Congress, so it may truly be the responsive "people's branch" that the framers of the Constitution intended.
Good legislating takes time. It demands the patient and persistent pursuit of consensus — testing ideas in vigorous debate, working through alternatives, weighing calls for action against demands for delay, seeking common ground so that if a bill does become law, a wide range of people will feel they had a hand in shaping the outcome.
The Center has developed an array of print, online, audio and video products that aim to educate Americans about the procedures and traditions of Congress — rules about how legislation should be handled, how debate takes place, how controversy gets channeled through layers of committees so that detailed analysis and productive conversation can take place.
Congress gives life to certain bedrock values of our democratic system —the importance of deliberation, and of fairness, and of politicians being dedicated to building consensus, instead of riding roughshod over the concerns of the minority, or throwing wrenches into the plans of the majority.
This newsletter gives you a glimpse of just some of the ways the Center is working to improve the public's understanding of Congress and encourage civic engagement. I hope you will examine our full menu of resources and activities, and join us in fostering an informed citizenry that actively participates in advancing representative democracy.
With warm regards,
Lee H. Hamilton
IU Centers Awarded NEH Funding for Institute To Help U.S. Social Studies Teachers Improve Instruction
Indiana University's efforts to promote national excellence in social studies teaching have been recognized by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which has awarded the Center on Congress and the Center for the Study of History and Memory a $165,422 grant to co-sponsor a July 2010 Summer Institute for American high school social studies teachers.
Titled "Social Movements in Modern America: Labor, Civil Rights, and Feminism," the three-week institute, to be held on the IU Bloomington campus, will help teachers understand the pivotal role of three major social movements in changing U.S. public policy over the last century. The institute will be co-directed by Edward G. Carmines, the Warner O. Chapman Professor and Rudy Professor of political science and research director for the Center on Congress; and John Bodnar, Chancellor's Professor of history and co-director of the Center for the Study of History and Memory at IU Bloomington. Bodnar is also director of IU's Institute of Advanced Study.
The "Social Movements" institute will train 25 social studies teachers from grades 9 through 12. Full-time teachers in U.S. public, private, or church-affiliated schools are eligible to apply. The application deadline is March 1, 2010; the institute will run from July 11-31.
The institute will devote one week to each of the social movements, acquainting teachers with the latest scholarship and elements that tie the three movements together. The teachers will attend lectures, participate in classroom discussions, analyze essential primary sources, complete reading assignments, watch documentary films, visit historic sites, and develop curricular materials. Following the institute, participants will be able to continue working on curricular materials via an institute Web site, where they will be able to post lesson plans and share strategies for making their instruction more effective.
The NEH has designated the institute as part of its "We the People" project, a special initiative designed to improve the teaching of American history and culture. The grant for the 2010 Summer Institute at IU Bloomington is one of 184 projects nationwide to be supported by a total of $29 million in NEH grant funding announced Aug. 20. The NEH is an independent federal agency that supports learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities.
Joining Professors Carmines and Bodnar in conducting the institute will be three distinguished experts in the topics being examined.
The principal instructor for the labor movement will be Carl Weinberg, Ph.D., editor of the Organization of American Historians Magazine of History, one of the premier publications on the teaching of history on both the secondary and university levels. Weinberg is the author of Labor, Loyalty and Rebellion: Southwestern Illinois Coal Miners and World War I, as well as articles and essays on the role of the labor movement in American history.
Professor Jennifer Maher will be responsible for the section of the institute that focuses on the women's movement. Maher is senior lecturer in the Department of Gender Studies at IU Bloomington, and is the author of numerous articles, essays and reviews that deal with the women's movement, feminism, and contemporary women writers.
Professor Jeffrey Ogbonna Green Ogbar will teach the civil rights section of the institute. Ogbar, an IU graduate, is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecticut. His research focuses on black nationalism and radical social protest. He has published Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identify and Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap.
Also on the institute faculty, focusing on helping participants integrate the institute's content into their classrooms, will be Purdue University Professor Lynn Nelson, a specialist on the teaching of history and civic education on the secondary level.
Barbara Truesdell will manage the administrative details of the institute. She is assistant director of the Center for the Study of History and Memory, an interdisciplinary research center focusing on the field of memory studies. Founded in 1968 by Professor Oscar O. Winther, the Center's mission is to conduct original research on the myriad ways that people remember, represent, and use the past in public and private life. For more information, go to http://www.indiana.edu/~cshm/
Students in the Indianapolis schools are receiving new tools to help them learn about Congress and citizenship, thanks to an innovative partnership to promote civic education formed by the Center on Congress, Rolls-Royce North America, and the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS).
Rolls-Royce provided resources to supply social studies classes with copies of three of the Center's most popular educational booklets — Understanding Congress: A Citizen's Guide; Making Your Voice Heard: How To Work With Congress; and Your Ideas Count: Representative Democracy and You.
The cooperative venture was celebrated at an Aug. 31 assembly at Indianapolis' Shortridge Magnet High School for Law & Public Policy, hosted by the school's principal, Brandon Cosby. "These tools will engage students across the [IPS] district in the democratic process," Cosby said. "These resources will be a perfect fit for our student body, which undoubtedly includes a number of future policymakers."
The event drew an impressive roster of leaders in education, politics, and business. Participants in the program included Dr. Eugene White, Superintendent of IPS, which is the largest school system in Indiana, teaching approximately 34,000 students; U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind. 7th); and Rolls-Royce North America Senior Vice President Edward A. Pease, a former U.S. Representative who is on the Board of Advisors of the Center on Congress.
In videotaped remarks, Center on Congress Director Lee Hamilton hailed the occasion as a "landmark event in our quest to reach a larger audience with our materials to increase knowledge of Congress and teach the skills of responsible citizenship.
"Teaching young people about Congress and encouraging them to get involved in politics and community service has been a passion of mine for a long time — during my 34 years in Congress, and since 1999 as head of the Center on Congress," Hamilton said. "If we fail to educate our children about our history and our system of representative government, we miss an opportunity to enrich their lives, and we miss an opportunity to enrich our country through their involvement."
Also on the event program was Alene Smith, Director of the Social Studies program at Shortridge, who is using the booklets in her classes and encouraging other IPS teachers to do the same.
On hand to show their support for the initiative were Indiana state Sen. Jean D. Breaux (D-District 34), and three state House members — Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-District 96), who chairs the House Education Committee (and is a graduate of Shortridge); Rep. Jeb Bardon (D-District 25); and Rep. Phillip D. Hinkle (R-District 92). Also attending was Nancy Papas of the Indiana State Teachers Association, which has worked with the Center on other civic education projects and helped forge this partnership..
In his new book on Congress, Center Director Lee Hamilton issues a challenge both to the nation's lawmakers and to the citizenry. Strengthening Congress, published by Indiana University Press, details the steps Congress should take to re-establish the power and influence envisioned for it in the Constitution and work more effectively with the executive branch. And it calls on Americans to take more seriously their responsibilities as citizens and engage with the critical issues facing their communities and the nation.
Early reviews of the book praise its on-target analysis of the dilemmas facing Congress and the country. Matt Tully, political columnist for the Indianapolis Star, wrote that Hamilton "nearly begs those serving in Congress to take their jobs more seriously, to think about the future of the country and not just upcoming elections, [and] he writes that voters need to be more responsible, more active and focused on serious issues." Tully called Strengthening Congress a "compelling" book that "should be required reading for members of Congress and the people they serve."
Bob Zaltsberg, editor of the Bloomington Herald-Times, wrote, "As he says in the opening lines of the preface, Lee Hamilton has written 'a book about belief in the face of cynicism.'...He's well aware...that many Americans are cynical about government and the people who serve in it; that some people don't engage with any level of government because they don't think they can make a difference....But he believes strongly that individual engagement can have an influence and that Congress continues to matter."
Christie Williams, of the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, wrote that Hamilton...believes that a weakened Congress compromises democracy and endangers constitutional freedoms," noting that his book outlines "several ways that Congress has meandered from the objectives of the Founding Fathers...[and] suggests that citizens get involved with their government to keep the legislators who are supposed to be working for them on task."
The 144-page book, available in paperback for $14.95 and cloth for $39.95, is Hamilton's second book on Congress published by IU Press. The first, How Congress Works and Why You Should Care, which appeared in 2004, has been one of IU Press' best sellers. It was recognized as "Outstanding" by members of the 2005 University Press Books Committee, a rating awarded to titles with "exceptional editorial content" that are "essential editions" to most school and public library collections.
Like How Congress Works, this new book is written in non-technical language for the general reader. Strengthening Congress should be especially useful for teachers in government and civics classes who want their students to get a deeper understanding of the role of the legislative branch in our system of government, and of citizens' responsibilities in a representative democracy.
Here is how Hamilton sums up Strengthening Congress:
- Congress was set up as the "First Branch" of the federal government. Most of the framers of our Constitution felt that no single politician could grasp and represent the variety of opinions in America. They felt that good public policy would spring not from a single opinion about what's needed, but from sharp analysis and civil dialogue in Congress among people with different points of view, values, and experiences.
- To preserve this vision, I argue in my book that Congress today must be more assertive in areas such as the budget and national security. To regain its ability to speak with a strong voice, Congress must commit to tough and continuous oversight to hold the president and his administration accountable. To enhance its credibility and reputation, Congress must strengthen internal ethics enforcement and curb the power of special-interest lobbyists.
- Above all, Congress must reduce excessive partisanship and create a deliberative process that will give Americans confidence that legislators are working hard to understand different views and find whatever common ground is possible on the tough issues before us.
- I want to make it plain: I believe in a robust, strong president. I do not believe in a timid, weak, non-assertive Congress. From the creative tension between a strong president and a strong Congress emerges better public policy.
Here is an excerpt from Matt Tully's October 2009 Indianapolis Star column onStrengthening Congress:
- Hamilton wrote his book out of concern that Congress has been weakened over the decades as lawmakers have bowed to presidents, letting the White House set the legislative agenda while allowing partisanship to rip the body apart.
- He nearly begs those serving in Congress to take their jobs more seriously, to think about the future of the country and not just upcoming elections. He tells them to more actively serve as a check on the White House — and not in the silly partisan ways we've come to expect. He urges lawmakers to have more thoughtful debates and to remember the House "ought to be a beacon of open, deliberative and thorough debate."
- He offers suggestions that only an entrenched, insider-run political system could reject, things such as fairly drawn legislative districts and the immediate online disclosure of campaign cash. He suggests the partial public financing of congressional campaigns. Many would criticize that, but a reduced dependence on campaign money could reduce the power of special interests in Washington.
- Ultimately, though, Hamilton's best ideas are his most basic. Laying out his "Ten Commandments of Good Citizenship," he writes that voters need to be more responsible, more active and focused on serious issues.
- He writes about the possibility of being dismissed as a "fusty old codger" who doesn't understand modern politics. But he actually understands it quite well. And he understands that the silly, mean-spirited games being played on Capitol Hill carry with them jeopardy.
- "When ordinary Americans come to believe that our democratic system of government does not work for them," Hamilton writes, "that's a serious problem."
- It's an idealistic book, no doubt. But a compelling one. [It] should be required reading for members of Congress and the people they serve.
Additional comments on Strengthening Congress:
Hamilton...believes that a weakened Congress compromises democracy and endangers constitutional freedoms. "A Congress that reasserts its prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government, that insists on robust oversight of the executive branch, that sets its own agenda as well as responds to the agenda of the president, that exercises the powers given it by our Constitution when it comes to declaring war and deciding how the government will spend its money — this would not be a Congress that weakens the president, but rather one that strengthens our democracy," Hamilton writes.
— Christie Williams, Roll Call
Hamilton says members of Congress must be less partisan and find ways to work together to seek common ground, [but he] falls well short of advocating group hugs. "We are well served by vigorous debate," he writes, "but even if our political leaders are not all going to become friends, we can certainly expect them to listen to one another, to respect each other, and to acknowledge that in a nation as divided as we are politically, good governance involves finding solutions that all can live with.
— Bob Zaltsberg, Bloomington Herald-Times
Lee Hamilton, one of this country's greatest public servants ever...challenges Congress to revitalize its special place in the American constitutional system and exhorts citizens to engage this institution to realize the promise of our representative democracy.Strengthening Congress is both a constructive critique of the broken branch and a compelling call to arms for politicians and citizens alike to repair it.
— Thomas E. Mann, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution,
co-author of The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing
America and How to Get It Back on Track
To order Strengthening Congress, contact IU Press at (800) 842-6796 or http://iupress.indiana.edu
Instructors: If you are interested in adopting this book for course use, see the exam copy policy at http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/catalog/information.php?info_id=122&meid=122
Teachers from South Carolina, Virginia and Wyoming Receive 2009 American Civic Education Teacher Awards
Teachers from South Carolina, Virginia and Wyoming are recipients of the 2009 American Civic Education Teacher Awards, recognizing their exemplary work preparing young people to become informed and engaged citizens. The ACETA winners are: Nate Breen of Cheyenne Central High School in Cheyenne, Wyo.; Sarah Ann Richardson Turpin of Clemson Elementary School in Clemson, S.C.; and Gregory Walsh of Falls Church High School in Fairfax County, Va.
The awards are given annually to elementary and secondary teachers of civics, government and related subjects who have demonstrated exceptional expertise, dynamism and creativity in motivating students to learn about the Constitution, Congress and public policy.
The ACETA program is sponsored by the Center on Congress, the Center for Civic Education, and the National Education Association.
Center on Congress Director Lee Hamilton lauded Breen, Turpin and Walsh for "helping students develop the knowledge and skills they need to work within the political system to make their communities and their nation better." In presenting the awards, Hamilton said, "We call public attention to the fact that many teachers across the nation are doing an excellent job molding the civic character of America's youth."
Charles N. Quigley, Executive Director of the Center for Civic Education, praised the awardees for their dedication to teaching young people the responsibilities of citizenship in our democracy. "It is an honor to recognize teachers who are so enthusiastic about imparting the fundamental values and principles of our constitutional system of government," Quigley said.
Dennis Van Roekel, National Education Association president, said "the awardees should be commended for their commitment to improving student learning and for leading by example to enhance the professionalism of civic education, which is essential to the preservation and improvement of a representative democracy."
The three awardees share a passion for explaining the work of government in an engaging way, and helping young people see that what goes on in Washington is relevant to their lives.
"I hope that my instruction helps students experience the excitement of citizenship, and the satisfaction of contributing to society," wrote Gregory Walsh, of Virginia, in his ACETA self-portrait essay. "Generating interest in the classroom, and at the same time opening doors to service in the community, can sustain lifelong commitments to both learning and service."
Wyoming's Nate Breen wrote, "The teacher's duty is to instill in the hearts of our students...an expectation of citizenship," which he described as "living and practicing tolerance, community service, hard work, and compassion. None of these virtues are present at birth. These virtues must be taught in the school and community, and modeled to our young."
And Sarah Ann Richardson Turpin of South Carolina wrote, "Strong civics education is essential to a strong democracy. It is our responsibility to teach our children and raise them to be informed, active citizens throughout their lifetime."
With the recognition this year of Breen, Turpin and Walsh, the ACETA program has honored a dozen teachers since the awards were first given in 2006. The previous ACETA awardees: Sally Broughton (Monforton Elementary School, Bozeman, Mont.); Christopher Cavanaugh (Plainfield High School, Plainfield, Ind.); Cheryl Cook-Kallio (Irvington High School, Fremont, Calif.); Mary Ellen Daneels (Community High School, West Chicago, Ill.); Barbara Simpson Ector (Cleveland Middle School, Cleveland, Tenn.); Kevin Fox (Arcadia High School, Arcadia, Calif.); Julie Kuhnhein (Highlands High School, Fort Thomas, Ky.); Galelyn McElroy (Central High School Magnet Career Academy, Louisville, Ky.); and Donna Paoletti Phillips (Robert Frost Middle School, Rockville, Md.).
February 16 is the application deadline for individuals who wish to be considered for the 2010 American Civic Education Teacher Awards.
Each year the ACETA program selects and showcases three outstanding teachers of civics, government and related subjects at the elementary or secondary level. Applicants must be full-time classroom teachers of grades K-12. There is no fee to apply. In addition to a two-page self-portrait essay, applicants must submit three letters of recommendation — two from teaching peers and one from their school principal. The application form is at www.centerongoncongress.org
The ACETA winners receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in July to participate in an educational program that includes observing floor sessions and committee hearings in Congress, meeting members of Congress and other key officials, and visiting sites such as the National Archives and the U.S. Supreme Court. The winners also are recognized at a national conference of civic educators.
The Center on Congress celebrated its 10th anniversary in a series of events in Bloomington that were planned and conducted in partnership with the numerous administrators, faculty and staff at IU Bloomington who have worked with the Center to improve the public's understanding of Congress and strengthen civic engagement.
Hamilton, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana from 1965 to 1999, founded the Center when he left Congress because he felt there was a need for a nonpartisan institution to educate young people and adults about the crucial role of the legislative branch in government, and to equip them with the knowledge and skills to be active and effective in revitalizing American democracy.
In its first decade, the Center has developed an extensive array of resources and programs that reach out to a wide variety of Americans — students at the elementary, middle and high school levels; teachers in the social studies; college and university scholars of Congress and American politics; journalists; people seeking to become U.S. citizens; and concerned citizens of Indiana and the nation.
The anniversary celebration also marked the official debut of Hamilton's new book,Strengthening Congress, published by IU Press.
Two of the Center's 10th anniversary events focused on the book. Hamilton explained its major themes in an Oct. 8 speech at the Robert G. Gunderson Forum in Rhetoric and Public Culture, organized by the IU Department of Communication and Culture. On Oct. 9, the book was analyzed by a panel of experts on Congress, politics and the media. Moderator of that discussion was Edward G. Carmines, the Warner O. Chapman Professor and Rudy Professor of political science at IU Bloomington, and research director for the Center on Congress.
Along with Hamilton, the panelists were: John Bodnar, Chancellor's Professor of history, co-director of the Center for the Study of History and Memory at IU Bloomington, and director of IU's Institute of Advanced Study; Marjorie R. Hershey, IU Professor of political science; Sylvia A. Smith, veteran Washington editor of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette; and Matthew Tully, formerly a reporter for Congressional Quarterly in Washington, now a political columnist for the Indianapolis Star.
During the two-day anniversary celebration Hamilton had a full slate of meetings with groups on campus and in Bloomington. On Oct. 8 he had a discussion over lunch with undergraduate students in IU's new PACE (Political and Civic Engagement) program. The interdisciplinary courses and activities of PACE aim to motivate students to become knowledgeable, effective, and committed citizens. Hosting the event was PACE director Michael Grossberg, the Sally M. Reahard Professor of History and Professor of Law at IU.
Then Hamilton spoke and took students' questions in two political science classes: the American Political Controversies class, taught by Eric French; and the Politics and the Media class, taught by Assistant Professor Yanna Krupnikov.
On Oct. 9, Hamilton hosted a breakfast meeting in downtown Bloomington with local business, education, civic and political leaders to discuss ways the Center can work more closely with employers, schools, and community organizations to increase knowledge of Congress and spur citizen participation in government. Then it was back to campus, where Hamilton hosted a lunch for the dozens of IU faculty and staff who have helped the Center in its work.
Hamilton's next stop was the IU School of Education, for a roundtable discussion in which faculty, graduate students, and Indiana high school social studies teachers advised the Center on how to stay at the cutting edge of developing educational resources that will interest today's school children in Congress, representative democracy, and citizenship. School of Education Dean Gerardo Gonzalez welcomed the attendees, then the discussion was facilitated by Terrence C. Mason, Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and Director of the IU Center for Social Studies and international Education.
The anniversary celebration concluded Friday evening with a dinner hosted by IU President Michael A. McRobbie. Mike Sample, IU Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations, was Master of Ceremonies for the evening, which began with a performance by a group of students who are part of The Singing Hoosiers collegiate chorus. McRobbie led off the evening's remarks. "Tonight we are honoring the outstanding success of the Center on Congress over the last 10 years here at IU, and saluting the vision and leadership of its founding director, Lee Hamilton," McRobbie said.
Noting his concern with Americans' "distrust of their elected officials and...growing feeling of disillusionment with our participatory democracy," McRobbie said, "The Center on Congress is among a number of organizations fighting this tide of disillusionment and distrust by instilling in all Americans — young and old — a greater understanding of their political heritage and the obligations of citizenship. In a climate where it is fashionable to tear down public servants, the Center has remained committed to ensuring that Congress advances the principles that motivated our Founding Fathers, including civility, compromise, and consensus."
McRobbie described Hamilton as "one of the most powerful reasons for the American people to have faith in our democracy. He offers a model of integrity, patriotism, and leadership that considers the public good before personal profit. An extraordinary public servant, Lee has dedicated his life to improving the lives of others, and he has been a great friend to the state of Indiana and to Indiana University.
"Congratulations to Lee Hamilton and to the staff of the Center on Congress for a remarkable decade of service to the nation, and to the university, and may the Center continue to serve as a leading voice for democracy, civic engagement, and the common good," McRobbie said.
Remarks then were delivered by two members of Congress: Rep. Joe Donnelly, a second-term Democrat from north-central Indiana's 2nd District; and Sen. Richard G. Lugar, elected six times from Indiana and now the Senate's longest-serving Republican. Donnelly hailed Hamilton and Lugar as "extraordinary leaders. Either one would have been a breathtakingly good president."
Lugar said, "It is a privilege to be invited to be here at this very special 10th anniversary celebration." He noted that "I served alongside Lee for more than two decades in Congress," and added, "I strongly support the mission of Lee Hamilton with the Center here." Lugar praised Hamilton's Strengthening Congress book as "very, very insightful," and as he gave the audience an overview of domestic and international challenges facing Congress, he cited several of the book's themes, including the importance of vigorous congressional oversight, diligence in authorizing and appropriating money, and keeping to high ethics standards.
Hamilton closed the dinner program with an extended thank-you to the many people in the Indiana University community who have helped the Center pursue its mission. "I cannot recall making a single call to any member of the faculty of this university and asking for them to help that I did not get a positive response," Hamilton said. "The Center has benefited enormously from our relationship with Indiana University — the expertise and contacts of the faculty, the university's resources and facilities, and the encouragement and good will of IU's leadership."
Hamilton credited former IU President Myles Brand with the idea for founding the Center. "Myles Brand came into my office after I had announced my retirement from Congress, and he said, 'Lee, have you ever thought about setting up a Center on Congress?' I had not. He said, 'I'd like you to think about it, and I want you to know that Indiana University will be very supportive.' Well, I did think about it, and I decided that Myles Brand had a very good idea, that it was something I wanted to do. I wanted to try to help Americans better understand the Congress of the United States and its key role in sustaining representative democracy.
"I often ask the question, 'If power continues to drift towards the executive branch — and I am not opposed to a strong president, I think you have to have a strong president in our system — but if power continues to drift that way, and Congress becomes less important, how long can you go down that road and still have representative democracy, which of course is at the core of our constitutional system.'
"We want to try to help people understand this institution better, and by their participation, make it a stronger institution. Now this is a big mountain to climb, but we have in the last 10 years begun the ascent... . Every single day, I see a little more progress that has been made. People really do come to appreciate the importance and the role of the Congress if you take a little time to explain it to them — why it matters, what impact this institution has on their daily lives."
About the Center on Congress
The Center offers programs, projects and resources that foster an informed electorate which understands our system of government and participates in civic life. These include: print publications; Web-based, interactive modules and other online learning tools in English and Spanish; commentaries for newspapers and radio stations; video and television in the classroom resources; survey research; teacher awards; and seminars, conferences, and a lecture series.
Newsletter editor: Phil Duncan