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Opinion

October 17, 2013

MARK HEINIG: Our man for all seasons

In a sense, he was congressman to all

Former Rep. Lee Hamil-ton’s 34 years in the U.S. House of Repre-sentatives speak for themselves. It’s hard to overesti-mate the importance of anybody who manages to survive that long in Congress. Seniority plays a very important role in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Those who have served the longest get the committee assignments they prefer. During his many years in office, Congressman Hamilton was a member of many powerful committees and chaired several of them.

Probably because they have fewer constituents, most members of the House of Representatives aren’t as well-known as senators. When voters in Indiana’s 9th Congressional District first elected Hamilton, I was a 19-year-old college sophomore. I was an egotistical young loudmouth who thought he had all the answers but didn’t even understand the questions! Back then, I didn’t live anywhere near the 9th District and 19-year-olds couldn’t vote anyway. I didn’t even know who Hamilton was.

As the years passed, I heard Hamilton’s name — only occasionally at first and more frequently later. I still knew very little about the man and his accomplishments. I guess I wasn’t paying attention. I needed half a lifetime to realize how much he did for both Hoosiers and all other Americans.

In the geographic sense, I can’t claim he was my congressman, because I still have never resided in his district. However, in a broader sense, he was everybody’s congressman. He acknowledged his duty to serve all Americans. Since retiring from politics, he has brought the same spirit of service to his work at the Indiana University Center for Congress.

His newspaper columns consistently offer much more than a mere digest of current congressional issues with brief editorial remarks. They reveal his comprehensive and perceptive understanding of how Congress works, and, more importantly, how it should work when our legislators do the job that we elected them to do.

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