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Sen. Richard Durbin Delivers 2015 Whittington Lecture

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Edward Montgomery, both seated onstage, speak to the audience.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), a 1966 graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and 1969 graduate of the Law Center, talks with Edward Montgomery, dean of the McCourt School of Public Policy, after his April 27 Whittington Lecture.

April 28, 2015 – Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), who delivered this year’s Whittington Lecture on public policy April 27, said that the concepts of government and public policy are at risk in the current political environment.

"The debate in Washington for the longest time was between those who want a minimal government, the conservatives, and those who want an active government, the liberals," said Durbin, a 1966 graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and 1969 graduate of the Law Center. "Today we have a much different debate. It's a debate about government itself, about the concept and government and public policy. Now it's a debate between the minimalists, which is the best most liberals can hope for, and the nihilists, many of whom don't believe there should be a government."

He said government oversight and public policy have been essential in the past decade, particularly in the auto industry, health care, climate change and other challenges. 

Durbin noted that McCourt School Dean Edward Montgomery served on the task force President Obama created to restructure the auto industry when it was failing and a million jobs were at stake.

"What did the acolytes of the invisible hand have to say?" the senator said. "Let it fail.' Thank goodness people like Ed Montgomery fought back and President Obama listened."

The 47th U.S. senator from Illinois is the state’s senior senator and the convener of Illinois’ bipartisan congressional delegation. He also serves as the assistant Democratic leader, the second-highest-ranking position among Senate Democrats.

The Georgetown alumnus sits on the Senate Judiciary, Appropriations and Rules committees, and is the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and the Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee.

The Whittington Lecture, established in 2002, is held each year in memory of associate dean and public policy professor Leslie A. Whittington, her husband and two children, who all died on 9/11 aboard the flight that was deliberately crashed into the Pentagon.

The lecture honors Whittington’s commitment to investigating pressing public policy issues by providing a forum for thoughtful dialogue with policy and political leaders.