Lee H. Hamilton is president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and director of The Center on Congress at Indiana University. Hamilton represented Indiana’s 9th congressional district for 34 years beginning January 1965. He served as chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, the Joint Economic Committee, and the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. As a member of the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee Hamilton was a primary draftsman of several House ethics reforms.
Since leaving the House, Hamilton has served on several commissions including serving as Vice-Chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission), co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, the National Commission on the War Powers of the President and the Congress, and the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. He is currently a member of the FBI Director’s Advisory Board, the Defense Secretary’s National Security Study Group, and the US Department of Homeland Security Task Force on Preventing the Entry of Weapons of Mass Effect on American Soil.
Question: When you read the newspaper or watch the news, what issues stand out for you?
Transcript: But I don’t see how any American can be comfortable with our healthcare system today given the fact that so many of our citizens are not covered. Here we have the most marvelous medicine in the world if you can pay for it; but so many Americans do not. There’s a janitor who comes to my office and cleans it. And he’s a nice man. His teeth are falling out. I go to the dentist. I get a bill – $500, $1,000 for a routine checkup. I can pay that, fortunately, and I can pay it for my family. Here we are in the United States of America, the richest country in the world, and we can’t get good dental care for the janitor. I’m disturbed by those things.
Or take education today. I used to go to high schools and give speeches all the time. Politicians do. I’d look out over that high school group and we’d have interactions. My fractions might not be right here, but 50% of those kids I don’t need to worry about. They come from good homes. They go to their churches. They have good healthcare. They’re involved in their community. They may not all be A-students, but they’re doing well. Many of them are A-students, and we’re not going to screw those kids up. They’re going to make it, and they’re going to do well in life. What bothers me is that other half. Now there was a time when we were so good, and so strong, and so powerful as a country that we didn’t really need to worry too much about that other half. But that’s changing now, and we’ve gotta begin to bring them up. And that means the educational system has to be sharply improved. So I worry about these things and many, many others.