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: Where are you from and how has that shaped you?
Hamilton: I was a very young boy when World War II started. I’m not sure quite what impact it had on me. I remember very clearly my father coming into the room and saying, “The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor.” I really had no concept of the seriousness of that, but I could tell from my father’s demeanor that he was very worried about it. And so I guess I was worried, too. So I grew up at a time when the country was going through an economic depression in the ‘30s, then shifted to a war footing with very rapid changes in American society. I’m sure I didn’t understand all of that, but that was the ______ in which I grew up.
I then moved to Evansville, Indiana, and I think I was in the seventh or eighth grade when that occurred. And from that point on, my recollection grew a little clearer, and it’s very simple: basketball. I grew up in an environment very similar to the movie Hoosiers. My sole focus in the very early days of my life was basketball.