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Behind the Curve
Collisions of Wills
God and Race in American Politics
My Gettysburg
Religion in American Politics
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What the River Carries
The Well-Balanced Teacher
The Notation Is Not the Music
The Snake River-Palouse and the Invasion of the Inland Northwest
Horizons of Cosmology

Congress, Presidents, and American PoliticsCongress, Presidents, and American Politics

Fifty Years of Writings and Reflections

Lee H. Hamilton

Narrated by Tom Lennon

Available from Audible

Book published by Indiana University Press

When Lee H. Hamilton joined Congress in 1965 as a US Representative from southern Indiana, he began writing commentaries for his constituents describing his experiences, impressions, and developing views of what was right and wrong in American politics. He continued to write regularly throughout his 34 years in office and up to the present. Lively and full of his distinctive insights, Hamilton’s essays provide vivid accounts of national milestones over the past fifty years: from the protests of the Sixties, the Vietnam War, and the Great Society reforms, through the Watergate and Iran-Contra affairs, to the post-9/11 years as the vice chairman of the 9/11 commission. Hamilton offers frank and sometimes surprising reflections on Congress, the presidency, and presidential character from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama. He argues that there are valuable lessons to be learned from past years, when Congress worked better than it does now. Offering history, politics, and personal reflections all at once, this book will appeal to everyone interested in understanding America of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Lee H. Hamilton is a Distinguished Scholar at Indiana University. He was a member of the US House of Representatives for 34 years and Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission. In 2015, Hamilton was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is author of many books, including How Congress Works and Why You Should Care and Strengthening Congress.


“Hamilton provides a solid look at the thinking, actions, and failures from the Lyndon Johnson years to the present.... Hamilton's views on politicians might just renew some readers' faith in our elected officials. At once encouraging and enlightening, his writings stir hope, and what he says is still important all these years later.... The book—essentially an encapsulation of the author's philosophy of politics and politicians—is a good choice for those who want to believe in government again.”

Kirkus Reviews

“This book is a treasure trove of insightful, real-time commentaries from a consummate legislator highly respected by members of both parties. Hamilton's observations could not be more relevant today, as they illustrate how the political process can, in fact, be made to work; and that thoughtful, principled compromise in both the legislative and executive branches is a lynchpin for producing solutions and the best possible policy for America's future.”

—Senator Olympia Snowe

“Lee Hamilton offers a sweeping and insightful history of America's governmental structure, contemporary politics, and the responsibility of citizens in our representative democracy. Given his 34 years of first-hand experience, a reader could not ask for a more informed guide through the controversies and debate that shaped the United States during the second half of the 20th Century. This work will be valuable to anyone interested in understanding our political/governmental past, contemplating how we might make the future better, and grasping what each of us can do to be informed and effective citizens.”

—Senator Evan Bayh

“This superb collection of Lee Hamilton’s commentaries about Washington reminds us why he was a great bipartisan leader for half a century: he understood politics, and he always put his country first. Here, readers can see how Hamilton kept his balance and good sense, from Vietnam to Watergate to Iraq. If you want an inside look at how the federal government really works, read this powerful book.”

—David Ignatius, Columnist, The Washington Post

“Lee Hamilton is a careful writer, and here he draws on his many years of public service in Congress, at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and on commissions and other special executive branch assignments. This is an original work stemming from the combination of his experience.”

—James A. Thurber, author of Rivals for Power: Presidential-Congressional Relations

“A balanced treatment that does not assign the blame for current political dysfunction solely to members of Congress, donors, interest groups, or any other single cause.”

—C. Lawrence Evans, co-author of Congress under Fire

“This is a chronicle of a fascinating odyssey. It is a trip, not by the "wise Odysseus" from Troy to Ithaca, but the story of the more than fifty-year journey of the sage former congressman and senior statesman Lee Hamilton from the first of his thirty-four years in Congress during the Johnson Administration to the present day...One of the most remarkable and valuable characteristics of the work is that it is written at a level that is readily understandable by the average citizen for whom the newsletters it contains were written. It is essentially an exercise in civic education and enlightening not only for the general populace, but also for teachers and students of American government throughout the nation.”

—Chuck Quigley

“Readers who expect dry-as-dust policy analysis or self-serving political pablum will be surprised by this delightful collection. Hamilton does far more than reproduce the original newsletters, which were written to explain current issues and Congressional procedures for the folks back home. Each newsletter is accompanied by Hamilton's insightful, often humorous, reminiscences.”

Bloom Magazine

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University Press Audiobooks