Northwest Indiana Business and Industry Hall of Fame

Lugar honored for lifetime of service

2013-03-22T15:17:00Z 2013-04-04T13:10:38Z Lugar honored for lifetime of serviceDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
March 22, 2013 3:17 pm  • 

MERRILLVILLE | Former U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar attributes his four decades of negotiating success with national and international leaders in part to the skills he learned on his earliest campaign trips to Northwest Indiana.

"One of the things that came from visiting here in Northwest Indiana, and especially I think in Lake County, was a sense that I found people who frequently did not have the same personal point-of-view; many persons had very diverse ideas," Lugar said.

Despite those differences, Lugar said he always sought to find ways to work with region Democrats, including former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher and U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, on projects that could improve the lives of Hoosiers.

The six-term Republican senator, who lost a 2012 re-election bid, was unusually reflective about his past Friday after Times Media Co. Publisher Bill Masterson Jr. presented him with a lifetime achievement award from Northwest Indiana Business and Industry Hall of Fame.

Lugar broke from his normal policy focus during his 24-minute speech and talked instead about the challenges he faced as a school board member and mayor during 1960s civil rights battles in Indianapolis and later as the longest-serving Hoosier in the history of the U.S. Senate.

He said meeting with people on their terms and then finding ways to bring different people together is what makes a good leader.

"I learned by going into the steel mills an education all by itself as to what was going on up here," Lugar said.

Lugar, 80, also credited his wife of 56 years, Char, with teaching him the diplomacy skills he used throughout his career, thanked her for sharing his passion for public service and encouraged others to be sure to find a mate with matching ideals.

"Because in these days of negative intelligence and so-forth, everybody is going to be tested in the family, and that love will endure only if you're on the same track from the beginning," Lugar said.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence introduced Lugar to the more than 500 Northwest Indiana business and political leaders attending the Hall of Fame luncheon at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza.

Pence declared Lugar a "friend and mentor" and someone who has literally "changed the world" through the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which used U.S. resources to dismantle nuclear weapons in nations of the former Soviet Union and other countries.

"The world knows and admires our state more because they've seen the character of our state in the service of one man," Pence said of Lugar.

Visclosky praised Lugar for being willing to ignore partisanship to help Hoosiers in need, such as when Lugar, as a school board member, accepted federal funds for a school breakfast program for low-income students despite unfounded fears that it would lead to a federal takeover of the schools.

"Sen. Lugar has devoted his entire life to serving those who have the least," Visclosky said.

Since leaving the Senate in January, Lugar has continued to work on the Nunn-Lugar program and is teaching classes or leading programs at Indiana University, the University of Indianapolis and Georgetown University.

He said in accepting the lifetime achievement award that his work isn't done yet but noted that so far it has been "a thrilling opportunity."

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