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Former Congress Member Calls Partisan Atmosphere 'Unique'

April 10, 2013 – Richard Lugar, the former Republican senator representing Indiana, told a Georgetown audience yesterday that the partisan strife in Congress will continue unless members from each party step up to catalyze change.

“My own view is that our current partisan atmosphere is unique in character, if not intensity,” Lugar said. “More troubling, it is unlikely to recede without a concerted effort to change our political culture and institutions.”

The Whittington Lecture honors the memory of Leslie Whittington, a Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI) professor and associate dean, who along with her husband and two young daughters died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

the People's business

“[Leslie Whittington] was an exemplary member of the faculty who performed groundbreaking research and inspired students and colleagues alike,” the former senator said. “Our own attention today to important public policy questions pays tribute to her values and her work.”


Lugar, who served six terms as a U.S. senator from 1977 to 2013, is currently serving as a visiting distinguished professor at GPPI.

“[Sen. Richard Lugar is] someone who has spent his whole career at all levels of government both domestically and internationally, seeking a way to do the people’s business [and] to get things done even if it meant working with others who [didn't] always share the same views,” said Ed Montgomery, GPPI dean.

During his lecture, titled “Securing our Nation’s Future in a Partisan Era,” Lugar said President Obama and current congressional leadership from both parties must continue to work together.

National Goals

“Such cooperation is necessary not only to achieve important national goals, but also to undergird national unity in the event of severe crises,” said the former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Lugar said that current strategic issues, including energy deficiencies, global food production concerns and the continued fight against terrorism, require a solid and stable American economy.

But with Congress’ inability to enact a bipartisan budget, Lugar fears that the resulting negative impact would also affect the United States’ national security.

“The bottom line is that we are living in a volatile world where we can expect events to occur that will require a decisive response from our government to prevent loss of life, long-term economic damage or grinding insecurity,” he said. “If our budget is so constrained or our political system is so partisan that we cannot respond adequately, we are setting ourselves up for some very hard times.”

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