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: What is your favorite period in American history? Transcript: I guess all Americans have a favorite period of American history. Mine is the period of the founding fathers. I’ve really been quite enchanted by that. We were a very small country – four or five million people – but we produced in the period of a few years a flowering of political genius. Just remarkable, I think unprecedented really in the history of the world. And I like all of them I guess. I’ve read a good bit about them. They’re giants. But my particular favorite is James Madison. Madison, of course, did not have all that successful a tenure as president, but he was the father of the Constitution. And I’ve been kind of attracted to him because I’ve always felt that he could never have gotten elected to Congress. He was a small man, about 5-foot tall. He had a pock-marked face. He was a lousy speaker. On television he would have been disaster; but he was a political genius because he was able to put together, if you will, large portions of the Constitution. So my interest has really been with the founding fathers. I have others I admire. Lincoln, of course like all Americans, I admire; but the founding fathers I feel a deep, deep sense of appreciation for because of what they did.