IU faculty member Lee Hamilton to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

  • Nov. 17, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University faculty member and former longtime Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony Nov. 24.

He is one of 17 recipients of the 2015 medal named by President Barack Obama. The list comprises luminaries from the worlds of government, public service, the arts and sports, including such well-known figures as baseball star Willie Mays, singer Barbra Streisand and film director and producer Steven Spielberg.

Hamilton is a distinguished scholar in the IU School of Global and International Studies and a professor of practice in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He served for 16 years as director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University, which he founded in 1999. Previously he represented Indiana in Congress for 34 years.

"Lee Hamilton is a true statesman who demonstrated unsurpassed commitment to serving the people of Indiana during his more than three decades as a member of Congress," said Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie. "Lee also has had an immeasurable impact on U.S. foreign policy, and he continues to be a clear voice for a strong but measured approach to the complex global issues this country faces.

"This recognition is a fitting tribute to Lee’s vast contributions to his home state and his country, and we are immensely fortunate to have Lee as a distinguished faculty member of the IU School of Global and International Studies, where he can share his wealth of knowledge and experience with the university community."

Created in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy and considered the highest civilian award given by the U.S., the Presidential Medal of Freedom honors meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

"This is obviously a high honor, and I'm deeply grateful for the recognition," Hamilton said. "There are an awful lot of people who helped me get it, including my family, staff members and, of course, the Indiana voters who have supported me over the years. Their support has been enormously meaningful and has enabled me to do what I was able to do."

Former U.S. Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Hamilton’s faculty colleague in the School of Global and International Studies, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

The White House statement called Hamilton "one of the most influential voices on international relations and American national security over the course of his more than 40 year career."

"U.S. foreign policy is smarter, more pragmatic, and better understood and supported by the American public due to the principled leadership of Lee Hamilton in the Congress, on the 9/11 Commission and on the Indiana University campus," said Lee Feinstein, founding dean of the IU School of Global and International Studies.

As a member of the U.S. House from 1965 to 1999, Hamilton chaired the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions With Iran.

After retiring from Congress, he served as vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission and co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group. He was co-chairman of the Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future, which issued a report in 2006 calling for immigration reform. At the Center on Congress and now at IU’s Center on Representative Government, he has also been a leading advocate for bipartisanship and effective governance.

As an Indiana University faculty member, Hamilton organized and led a September 2011 symposium in which members of the 9/11 Commission met at IU to reflect on the 10-year anniversary of the attacks. He has participated in numerous IU discussions of current issues, such as a September 2015 panel on the Iran nuclear agreement. He writes a regular column on foreign affairs for The Huffington Post and a biweekly newspaper column distributed by the Center on Representative Government.

Others who will receive the medal Nov. 24 include musicians Gloria Estefan, Emilio Estefan and James Taylor, Rep. Barbara Mikulski, violinist Itzhak Perlman, composer Stephen Sondheim, and Indiana native William Ruckelhaus, the first and fifth director of the Environmental Protection Agency. The award will be presented posthumously to baseball player Yogi Berra, Rep. Shirley Chisholm and civil rights leader Minoru Yasui.

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