Last October, two of Indiana’s most respected voices in Washington, Richard Lugar and Lee Hamilton, joined national, regional and local experts to discuss a wide range of experiences during the inaugural Richard M. Fairbanks Symposium on Civic Leadership, which focused on the politics of civility. The two-day event, hosted by UIndy’s Institute for Civic Leadership and Mayoral Archives included a panel discussion on Syria; a roundtable discussion with three recently elected Indiana mayors, all younger than 35; an overview of the long legacy of incivility in politics; a conversation with four former deputy mayors of Indianapolis; and a keynote discussion between former Indianapolis mayor Richard Lugar and current South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Read summaries about the sessions:
The Great Debate: Is Action in Syria America’s Least Bad Option?
The Symposium began with a foreign policy panel discussion in which Senator Richard Lugar joined policy experts Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute, Joshua Landis of the Syrian Studies Association, and Robert Zarate of the Foreign Policy Initiative for a spirited discussion of America’s role in the future of Syria. This event, moderated by veteran congressman, Lee Hamilton, examined whether the United States ought to intervene in Syria’s domestic affairs, looking at the issue from humanitarian and economic perspectives. Senator Lugar stressed that the “the future might not be a single state in Syria.” The potential ramifications for U.S. relations in the rest of the Middle Eastern nations were also discussed. Although each panelists’ perspective varied accordingly, the event increased understanding and awareness about the background and current state of U.S. relations, both with Syria and the Middle East on the whole, by bringing together participants and experts in the realm of foreign policy.
‘Young Guns’ roundtable discussion
The Symposium reconvened the next day with a discussion among three Indiana mayors all under the age of 35. Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson moderated a talk with three recently elected mayors: South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, LaPorte mayor Blair Milo and Frankfort mayor Chris McBarnes. These mayors shared some of the challenges they have faced as young elected officials and emphasized the importance of civic leadership as a pathway to change.
Debunking the Civility Myth
Historians A. James Fuller (University of Indianapolis) and Ray Boomhower (Indiana Historical Society) provided historical background on the legacy of incivility in American politics. Fuller began the session by discussing Governor Oliver P. Morton’s uncivil dealings with rebels in Indiana. Boomhower followed with an overview of the 1888 presidential election, depicting how barbaric electoral politics are not merely a current development.
Behind the Scenes of City Government
Local Indianapolis community leaders came together in the third session, moderated by former Deputy Mayor Melina Kennedy, to talk about how city government actually works. This session featured deputy mayors from the four most recent Indianapolis mayoral administrations: Michael Huber, Mike O’Connor, Anne Shane and Dave Frick.
Keynote conversation: Richard Lugar & Pete Buttigieg
The Fairbanks Symposium culminated with the keynote conversation between Senator Lugar (also former Indianapolis mayor) and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg. Although the two are separated by geography and party, Buttigieg and Lugar share a number of striking similarities: both were high school valedictorians and Rhodes scholars; Lugar served his country in the Navy and Buttigieg serves in the Navy; and, of course, both became mayors well before the age of 40. Lugar discussed some monumental historic events during his time as mayor of Indianapolis from 1967-1976. Among these was the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement in Indianapolis and the government consolidation, or Unigov, of Indianapolis and Marion County. In both instances, Lugar emphasized the importance of civility to deal with the challenges wrought by partisan politics. Lugar noted that after the state legislature passed the Unigov bill, the Republicans were “celebrating but still compromising.” Mayor Buttigieg also discussed his time as mayor and cited his studies in the Humanities as his greatest asset during his time in public office. Buttigieg stated that “reading got me everything good in life” and he emphasized its importance for anyone who makes both public and private decisions.
On October 8 and 9, 2013, The Institute for Civic Leadership and Mayoral Archives hosted the inaugural Richard M. Fairbanks Symposium on Civic Leadership on the UIndy campus. The event was made possible by the generosity of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. More than 440 participants attended the two-day conference, which was co-organized with Indiana Humanities. Faculty and students from UIndy, scholars from Washington, D.C. and Oklahoma, politicians, and community leaders were among those who participated in several discussions promoting the politics of civility, which was the topic for this year’s symposium.