The Hamilton Lugar School’s second annual scholarship event featured former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and political journalists Susan Glasser and Peter Baker for a wide-ranging conversation that spanned the Secretary’s political career and current national and international issues.
Glasser is no stranger to HLS, having interviewed current CIA Director William Burns at the fifth conference on America’s Role in the World®. She and Peter Baker (not related) are co-authors of The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III, named a New York Times Best Seller and one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post.
As Glasser and Peter Baker summarize, from the post-Watergate era to the aftermath of the Cold War, Secretary Baker’s career was formidable. He served as White House Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Treasury under President Ronald Reagan, and as Secretary of State and White House Chief of Staff under President George H.W. Bush.
In international affairs, he charted a post-Cold War future with Russia, guided the reunification of Germany, steered a change in policy toward Latin America, and built a coalition of allies and adversaries to force Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
As IU President Michael McRobbie said in his remarks, Secretary Baker’s career “reflects the values of pragmatism, bipartisanship, and deal-making over division.”
He also has a long history with one of the School’s namesakes, Rep. Lee Hamilton, who served in Congress for the duration of Secretary Baker’s career. They also worked together to lead the Iraq Study Group, a nonpartisan, blue ribbon commission that assessed the War in Iraq and provided important insights on improving stability in the region at a time when some believed the situation could not be redeemed.
After the event’s introduction by Rep. Hamilton, Secretary Baker acknowledged and praised the Congressman’s leadership on that panel and widely respected ethic of bipartisanship, as well as the leadership of Senator Richard Lugar.
“I’m delighted to be here taking part in an event for a school named after two great American statesmen, Richard Lugar and Lee Hamilton, both of whom were not only good friends of mine but colleagues with whom I worked quite successfully during my stay in Washington,” said Secretary Baker.
After Rep. Hamilton’s remarks, Secretary Baker discussed the possibility of forming a bipartisan commission—similar to the Iraq Study Group—to investigate the January 6th attack on the US Capitol and provide recommendations.
The conversation continued to traverse some of the most important issues facing the US and world today, including the roots of the country’s political polarization and dysfunction, the importance of allies, and trade and security policy toward China.
The moderators also solicited questions from attendees, including how the Secretary responded to John Hinckley’s assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan and its aftermath.
Amb. Lee Feinstein, founding dean of the Hamilton Lugar School, provided the virtual event’s closing remarks, in which he drew attention to the School’s important mission.
“Our country is more just and more secure, and all of us are better off, when we engage with the world rather than retreating from it, and…our country does better and we make better decisions and we work with people of different backgrounds and different points of view to address the daunting issues we face. There are no finer examples of public figures who have put these principles into practice than James Baker and Lee Hamilton,” he said.
The Hamilton Lugar School’s first scholarship dinner, which honored former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates with the Distinguished Alumni Award, raised money for more than 10 scholarships for deserving Hoosier students.