In the last two weeks America lost two great treasures — both were pivotal in advancing the role of Congress as a responsible actor in US policy, and both were lynchpins in the success of our Congressional Program.
Senator Richard Lugar was the most frequent attendee at our global conferences and weekly breakfasts on Capitol Hill. His nature was that of a kind gentleman driven by independent curiosity in the desire to serve the national interest. His leadership on nuclear non proliferation issues, and reduction in east/west tensions, directly led to the transformational Nunn-Lugar arms control agreement, which was formed through annual conferences with top American and Russian scholars and sparked by dramatic changes in the Soviet Union while we were meeting in Budapest in August 1991. Unlike many elected officials, Dick Lugar was quiet, thoughtful, persistent, and was bipartisan in his treatment and respect for colleagues across the aisle; all qualities and virtues we work to encourage at the Aspen Institute.
David Hamburg, distinguished medical doctor and humanitarian, was the intellectual foundation of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program as President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. His vision led to the creation of our long standing program whose fundamental principle is stimulating critical analysis of policy issues and simultaneously fostering bipartisan conversations that are the foundation of trust, which is a basis of cooperation among legislators essential for bipartisan support of successful initiatives.
We still firmly believe in the merit of this approach, even in times when the Congress is held in low regard among the American people, and are forever grateful to the insight and contributions of Richard Lugar and David Hamburg who helped set a high bar that we measure ourselves against every day.
Ironically, there was a symbiotic relationship between these two men, who knew each other and worked together because the Aspen Institute brought them together. And in the process they worked to make the world safer for all of us.