Blue Ribbon

Lee Hamilton


Lee H. Hamilton is director of The Center on Congress at Indiana University, founded by Hamilton in 1999 when he left public office.  The Center on Congress is a nonpartisan educational institution, whose mission is twofold: to help Americans better understand Congress and its role in sustaining the health of our democracy; and to teach young people and adults how to communicate their concerns to Congress, so that it may truly be the responsive “people’s branch” that the framers intended.

Hamilton served as President and Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC from January 1999 to December 2010.  The Woodrow Wilson Center, the nation’s official memorial to President Woodrow Wilson, is a pre-eminent intellectual haven where scholars, policymakers, and business leaders engage in a comprehensive and non-partisan dialogue on public policy issues, their deep historical backgrounds, and their effect on national and international thought and governance.

Prior to becoming president and director of the Center on Congress, and of the Wilson Center, Mr. Hamilton served for thirty-four years as a United States Congressman from Indiana.  During his tenure he served as Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (now the Committee on International Relations), and chaired the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East from the early 1970s until 1993.  Mr. Hamilton also served as chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran.  Mr. Hamilton established himself as a leading congressional voice on foreign affairs, with particular interests in promoting democracy and market reform in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, promoting peace and stability in the Middle East, expanding U.S. markets and trade overseas, and overhauling U.S. export and foreign aid policies.  His service enabled him to become an astute observer and participant in many significant historical events, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Arab/Israeli peace negotiations, and the Gulf War.

Mr. Hamilton has also been a leading figure on economic policy and congressional organization.  He served as chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, working to promote long-term economic growth and development, global market competition, and a sound fiscal policy.  As chairman of the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress and a member of the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee, he was a primary draftsman of several House ethics reforms, and worked to promote the integrity and efficiency of Congress as an institution.


In his home state of Indiana, Mr. Hamilton worked hard to improve education, job training, and infrastructure.  He established The Center on Congress at Indiana University, serving as director of that non-partisan institution that seeks to educate citizens on the importance of Congress, and the way in which the Congress operates within our government.

Mr. Hamilton remains an important and active voice on matters of international relations and American national security.  He served as a commissioner on the United States Commission on National Security in the 21st Century (the Hart-Rudman Commission), and was co-chair with former senator Howard Baker of the Baker-Hamilton Commission to Investigate Certain Security Issues at Los Alamos.  He was named vice-chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission), which issued its report in July 2004, then co-chaired with Governor Tom Kean the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, established to monitor implementation of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations.  In March 2006 he was named co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, created at the urging of Congress as a forward-looking, bi-partisan assessment of the situation in Iraq.  In February 2007 he was appointed to the National War Powers Commission, a private, bi-partisan panel led by former Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher, established to examine how the Constitution allocates the powers of beginning, conducting, and ending war.  He served on President Bush’s (43) Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

Mr. Hamilton’s current memberships include the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Advisory Board, the US Department of Homeland Security Task Force on Preventing the Entry of Weapons of Mass Effect on American Soil, the CIA External Advisory Board, the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, co-chair of the National Security Preparedness Group with Thomas Kean, co-chair of the National Advisory Committee to the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and co-chair of the Department of Energy Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future with Brent Scowcroft.

Mr. Hamilton’s distinguished service in government has been honored through numerous awards in public service and human rights.  These include the Association for Conflict Resolution Peacemaker Award, the Council for Excellence in Government 25 Greatest Public Servants in 25 Years, the World Affairs Councils of America Chairman’s Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Churchill Award for Statesmanship, the Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the George C. Marshall Foundation Award, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service, the US Capitol Historical Society 2005 Freedom Award, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute Freedom from Fear Award, the Paul H. Douglas Ethics in Government Award, the Voices of September 11th Building Bridges Award, the American Foreign Service Association Lifetime Contribution to American Diplomacy, the Knight Commanders Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Indiana Humanities Council Lifetime Achievement Award, the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, The American Academy of Diplomacy Award, the American Political Science Association Hubert H. Humphrey Award, the American Political Science Association Outstanding Legislator Award, the Republic of Greece Insignia of the Decoration of the Commander of the Order of Phoenix, the Center for the Study of the Presidency Public Service Medal, the Central Intelligence Agency Medallion, the Defense Intelligence Agency Medallion, the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and Knight of the French Legion of Honor.

Mr. Hamilton has received several honorary degrees, including degrees from DePauw University, Hanover College, Detroit College of Law, Ball State University, University of Indianapolis, University of Southern Indiana, Wabash College, Union College, Marian College, American University, Indiana University, Suffolk University, Indiana State University, Anderson University, Franklin College, Shenandoah University, Bellarmine University, and Georgetown University School of Law.

Born in Daytona Beach, Florida, Mr. Hamilton’s family relocated to Tennessee and then Evansville, Indiana.  Mr. Hamilton is a graduate of DePauw University and Indiana University law school, and studied for a year at Goethe University in Germany.  A former high school and college basketball star, he has been inducted into the Indiana basketball Hall of Fame.  Before his election to Congress, he practiced law in Chicago, Illinois and Columbus, Indiana.  He is the author of A Creative Tension - The Foreign Policy Roles of the President and Congress, andHow Congress Works and Why You Should Care; Strengthening Congress; and co-author of Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission and The Iraq Study Group Report.

Lee and his wife, the former Nancy Ann Nelson, have three children: Tracy Lynn Souza, Deborah Hamilton Kremer, and Douglas Nelson Hamilton; and five grandchildren: Christina, Maria, McLouis, and Patricia Souza, and Lina Ying Kremer.