Senator Richard Lugar: America’s Honest, Earnest Statesman
1A Life in Service
Few senators before or after Richard Lugar have mastered American politics with the same perseverance, stewardship and good-willed pragmatism. Lugar respected the importance of bipartisan American politics and worked with opposing legislators to find practical solutions that benefitted all Americans, not just his political allies.
For Lugar, this was not a trend, but his tradition and, after his passing on April 28th, 2019, his legacy.
“I am convinced that the majority of American people do understand that we have a moral responsibility to foster the concepts of opportunity, free enterprise, the rule of law, and democracy. They understand that these values are the hope of the world.”
~Senator Richard Lugar
2Nipping Nuclear Arms in the Bud
Considered one of Senator Lugar’s most farsighted pieces of legislation, the Nunn-Lugar Act, formally known as the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, anticipated the inevitable splintering of the Soviet Union into several nation states, each of which would possess nuclear weapons.
The Act, which evolved through congressional channels as far back as 1986, sought to dismantle and decommission the nuclear, chemical, and biological weapon stockpiles of the Soviet Union, and those assisted efforts with roughly a half billion dollars a year in federal funding.
For a senator with a fiscally-conservative constituency, his sponsorship of the legislation was uniquely bold, and could have threatened his chances at reelection. But Lugar saw the necessity for such provisions, and this program eliminated vast numbers of dangerous material; most of the fissile material in decommissioned Russian weapons was converted into reactor fuel to be used in the US itself.
3Speaking Out Against Iraq War
Following the tragedy of September 11th, the Iraq War received overwhelming support both in Congress and in public consensus, but as the war raged on and efforts seemed to not only slow but inflame acts of terrorism, both the public and politicians saw the writing on the wall: this war was not working.
Lugar, well-respected for his experience and insight on foreign policy, was among the first Republicans to acknowledge this failure. On June 26th, Lugar spoke on the floor of the Senate and articulated his concerns: “Our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond.”
4Equality in Indiana
Before his terms as mayor of Indianapolis, Richard Lugar served on the Indianapolis School Board of Commissioners. During his tenure, his efforts to desegregate the public school across Indianapolis ushered a new era of educational and cultural equality for the state.
Although never a slave state, Indiana’s long history with the KKK and the abhorrent stain of racism it left behind made school desegregation a controversial issue in the mid-60s. It’s sad to admit that Jim Crow didn’t have a home in Indiana, but it had fans.
The efforts of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement filled newspapers and news programs daily and Lugar supported the efforts at equality. Lugar spearheaded the the integration of schools across Indiana’s capital and largest city, and did so as peacefully and quickly as possible.
5A Senator “On the Level”
Bipartisan politics, or politics that seek to discover and endorse compromises that benefit both (or all) American political parties, have been a long-standing tradition for Indiana. The Hoosier state is home to such a dynamic constituency (rural and urban, blue and white collar) that falling blindly along party lines is guaranteed to alienate and disenfranchise millions of citizens…and registered voters.
A lifelong Republican, Senator Lugar spent his political career “working across the aisle” and finding effective and honest ways of working with his political allies and opponents (the co-sponsor of the Nunn-Lugar Act, Senator San Nunn, was a Georgian Democrat). The end effect was legislation that worked and nearly-universal respect from the Senate, Congress and White House. Of the 227 Senators assessed from 1993-2014, Senator Lugar is 24th in bipartisanship.
6The Lugar Center
To celebrate his effectiveness as a statesman and legislator, Congress worked with Senator Lugar to establish The Lugar Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing and solving not only the current issues faced in US society, but those of the future.
Lugar created the framework for the the Lugar Center, utilizing his vast experience in foreign policy and bipartisanship to offer real solutions to real problems. The center ensures issues of domestic and global concern, such as weapons of mass destruction, food security, and the future of energy, are addressed by educated professionals that put problems first and politics second.
7The Nation’s Highest Civilian Honor
In November of 2013, President Obama awarded Richard Lugar the Presidential Medal of Freedom, recognizing his lifelong service to the American citizenry as an elected official and who was “…an example of the impact a public servant can make by eschewing partisan divisiveness to instead focus on common ground.”
8A Proven Legacy…
This list of articles from reputable news agencies address the legacy Senator Lugar had richly earned: honest, effective leadership.
Not every politician agreed with his decisions, but a common thread of respect in unmistakable: for a man who served his country for as long as he could, as well as he could.