Lugar speaks with optimism

United States Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., current chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, presented an optimistic analysis of the state of American foreign relations to a full house at the Sanford Institute of Public Policy Wednesday afternoon.


Well over 200 students, faculty and guests filled the Fleishman Commons and the stacked tiers of couches in the Sanford Institute's main atrium to hear Lugar's speech, entitled "The United States Rediscovers the World."


"Our understanding of the world is, to say the least, incomplete," said Lugar, the 2004 Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecturer. "...[But] I look to 2004 with a lot more optimism."


Amid a swirl of impressive stories and anecdotes of his experiences with presidents, foreign political figures and fellow congress members, Lugar explained how the events of Sept. 11 have changed the way Americans perceive the state of international politics.


"September 11, 2001 was a time for a great number of Americans to take a strong look into what's going on in other countries," Lugar said. "In my state, my constituents were mostly interested in domestic policy--Medicare, taxes and all aspects of education reform--almost to the exclusion of what was going on in other countries. But this was not so after [Sept. 11]. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know [about foreign relations]. It was a re-discovery process for my constituents."


Immediately after Sept. 11, the international situation remained all but calm, Lugar said, citing a number of examples: The level of insurgency in Iraq worsened, North Koreans began to fear regime change as a result of President George W. Bush's axis of evil doctrine, the Russians began to worry about how former Soviet nuclear material was finding its way to Iran and the Cancun conference on world trade failed to reach a consensus on agriculture policy.


"It was a very bad scene... a total disaster," he said.


Since the capture of Saddam Hussein, however, Lugar has perceived a substantially less hostile international atmosphere.


"Capturing Saddam was a big breakthrough--any way you look at it," he said. "[The fact] that Saddam is out of there is very significant. The people in Iraq are actually taking democracy seriously. Before, people thought that [in spite of the U.S. intervention], Saddam would be back... and now they are beginning to spout out what they really think. It's great, but it's different."


Although cautioning against "brimming optimism" in the realm of U.S. foreign relations, Lugar noted that recently, other countries have become more willing to cooperate with the U.S.


"It is important for the U.S. to succeed in our [foreign relations] objectives, but also to [foster relationships with] allies and in doing so, make the world a safer place," he concluded.


Freshman Steven Nigh said he enjoyed the senator's remarks. "I was born and raised in Indiana, so there's no way I wasn't going to like it," Nigh said.


Re-elected in 2000, Lugar is currently serving his fifth term in the U.S. Senate. A leader in negotiating the reduction of weapons of mass destruction, Lugar was responsible for developing the 1991 Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which effectively enabled the U.S. to secure and deactivate nearly 6,000 nuclear warheads in the former Soviet Union. Lugar's work on the CTRP won him the Chairman's Medal and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.


In addition to his work with the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, Lugar is also a member and past chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Lugar graduated at the top of his class at Denison University and in 1954 was named a Rhodes Scholar. After graduating from Oxford University with degrees in politics, philosophy and economics, Lugar served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy. He now holds 36 honorary doctorate degrees as well.


"This lectureship is the Institute's most prestigious, since it honors our founder and his extraordinary public service to the University, the state and the nation," Sanford Institute Director Bruce Jentleson wrote in a memo. "We are very pleased that Senator Lugar, who has dedicated his career to forging productive partnerships nationally and internationally, will help us honor Terry Sanford's legacy."


The Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture series, endowed by a gift to the University from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust in honor of Terry Sanford, invites men and women of the highest personal and professional stature to speak at Duke, Jentleson added.


Previous lecturers include former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, former Harvard President Derek Bok and U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.


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