“The Life of a Senator: Birch Bayh”

"The Art of Leadership" exhibition opening
Lilly Library
Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
April 11, 2007

Birch Bayh: A True Public Servant

The Honorable Birch Bayh represented Vigo County in the Indiana General Assembly for eight years. He moved on to represent the State of Indiana for eighteen years in the U.S. Senate — tumultuous years in the life of this country.

Over his decades of extraordinary service to the State and to this nation, Senator Bayh became a public servant in the true sense of that term. He invariably put the needs of his constituents and the nation at the forefront of his concerns. He always exercised wise and deeply thoughtful judgment in his unremitting search for justice. And he endeavored with boundless energy and skill to make America a better place for all of us, regardless of gender, race, class, nationality, or religious background.

The Bayh Collection

On display this evening are some of the papers that Senator Bayh has generously given to Indiana University. The nearly 1,300 boxes of documents in this magnificent collection offer a special insight into the great career of one of this nation's finest legislators, but they offer far more than that.

These letters, photographs, legislative records, speeches, campaign materials, and other documents give us a picture of democracy in action. They pull aside the curtain of distance and time that often stands between people and their representatives.

An accomplished athlete and president of his senior class at Purdue, the senator was also deeply connected to his agrarian roots, and this was vital to his later legislative success. Building on his early achievements, Senator Bayh quickly became the Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, a position he held while he worked on his law degree here at IU Bloomington.

Bayh's Senatorial Accomplishments

I have not yet mentioned Senator Bayh's astounding productivity while he was in the Senate. He was the only lawmaker since the Founding Fathers to author two constitutional amendments. He laid the groundwork for systematic disaster relief, authored Title IX of the Higher Education Act, and chaired the Select Committee on Intelligence.

I would need much more time to begin to convey Senator Bayh's accomplishments on the Judiciary, Appropriations, and Public Works committees. These are the stories told in this priceless and vast collection. This is the life of one of the most remarkable senators this country has ever produced.

Bayh Today

After his tenure in the Senate, the senator has continued his great efforts on behalf of his fellow citizens. Among his many responsibilities, he was founding chairman of the National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence and founding commissioner of the Citizen's Commission on Civil Rights.

In addition to his Washington, D.C. law practice, Senator Bayh teaches American history and politics at Washington College in Maryland, monitors Title IX litigation, and plays an active role in the National Popular Vote coalition. He also encourages young people to pursue public service through events like the O'Bannon Public Service Institute at Ivy Tech here in Bloomington.

Conclusion: With Eyes Toward the Future

I would like to close with the words of another great American and close friend of Senator Bayh, President Lyndon Johnson.

In his inaugural address, Johnson said, "For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest sleeping in the unplowed ground. Is our world gone? We say 'Farewell.' Is a new world coming? We welcome it — and we will bend it to the hopes of man."

This is what Senator Bayh is all about: his driving spirit, his belief in hard work, and his eyes always on the future.

Senator, on behalf of Indiana University, I would like to thank you, with gratitude and the deepest respect, for entrusting this priceless collection to us.

Introducing Congressman Lee Hamilton

Now I am pleased to introduce another remarkable Hoosier, the Honorable Lee Hamilton. Congressman Hamilton represented southern Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1965 to 1999, and he will be introducing Senator Bayh.

It is truly a privilege and a very rare opportunity to introduce two such distinguished statesmen in one night. I might add that the accomplishments of both Senator Bayh and Congressman Hamilton have been well known for many decades in my native Australia. Both are admired around the world for their integrity and leadership.

During his tenure, Congressman Hamilton chaired the Foreign Relations and the Permanent Select Intelligence committees. He was also Vice Chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, better known as the 9/11 Commission.

The congressman is currently President and Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington, D.C. He also serves as Director of The Center on Congress, a non-partisan educational institution based right here at IU.

Like his colleague and friend Senator Bayh, Congressman Hamilton remains an important and active voice on policy matters. Among his other positions, he is Co-Chairman, with former Secretary of State James A. Baker, of the Iraq Study Group. This bipartisan panel, created at the urging of Congress, conducted a thorough independent evaluation of the situation on the ground in Iraq and issued its official report in December 2006.

Please join me in welcoming the Honorable Lee Hamilton.