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Inouye Back for Year Two

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Our big event at the Kluge Center this April is the second annual Daniel K. Inouye Distinguished Lecture. Last year’s inaugural “lecture” featured former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell discussing shared values in U.S. foreign policy. This year’s event features Norman Y. Mineta, former Secretary of Transportation, and Alan K. Simpson, retired U.S. Senator, discussing the balance between protecting America’s national security and protecting Americans’ civil liberties. It should be a timely and stimulating discussion.

For those who missed last year’s event, it was quite a treat. The purpose behind the Inouye series, which is made possible through a generous donation from the Daniel K. Inouye Institute, a program fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation, is to convene bipartisan conversations around issues that mattered to the late Senator. Foreign policy was certainly one. During World War II, Inouye served in the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team, losing his right arm and earning a Congressional Medal of Honor. As a U.S. Senator during the Reagan Administration he was chairman of the Iran-Contra Committee that investigated the financial support of Nicaraguan Contras via the sale of weapons to Iran. As he stated in his opening remarks of the 1987 hearing:

“The formulation of American foreign policy has always been a matter of discourse between the President and Congress. Without detracting from their own primary responsibility, Presidents have understood that Congress has an indispensable role in foreign policy… In short, it is a working relationship.”[1]

The discussion last July in the Coolidge Auditorium between secretaries Albright and Powell—one a Democrat and one a Republican—tackled that very question of how the Congress works with the Administration to craft American foreign policy and make decisions on international affairs. The secretaries both referenced Article I of the U.S. Constitution, which articulates a role for Congress in foreign policy and indicates that it is a shared responsibility between the branches of government. This is also, both secretaries agreed, an invitation for struggle. The American political system is partisan by design. That system brings us vibrancy, and also makes it necessary to reconcile different points of view. Moderator Ann Compton, who covered The White House for more than 40 years, invoked the words of the late Senator Arthur Vandenberg, who famously said that partisan politics must stop “at the water’s edge.” While both secretaries believed in bipartisanship and compromise, both admitted that the current political system makes the ideal of leaving politics at the water’s edge a major challenge.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell participates in a moderated discussion with Ann Compton, former ABC News White House Correspondent, during the inaugural Daniel K. Inouye Distinguished Lecture hosted by the John W. Kluge Center, July 8, 2015. Photo by Shawn Miller.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell participates in a moderated discussion with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during the inaugural Daniel K. Inouye Distinguished Lecture hosted by The John W. Kluge Center, July 8, 2015. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Near the 27-minute mark, the discussion turned again to the role of Congress in foreign affairs. Albright said that consultation with Congress is essential, and she recalled spending a great deal of time on Capitol Hill in both public hearings and private discussions during her tenure as secretary. Powell restated that it is only through compromise among Congress and the Administration that consensus can be found–and only through consensus can the nation move forward. Powell would say later that Congress must play an active role in the creation of foreign policy, not simply comment on it after the fact.

The conversation touched on a number of other issues, including the role of technology in diplomacy; the effects of the news and social media on politics; the proper calibration of military force, diplomacy and economic tools in foreign affairs; and how to define the national interest. The event also offered an opportunity to remember Senator Inouye, whom both knew well. Powell described Inouye as one of the “Cardinals of the Congress,” and reminisced about times that he would call Senator Inouye on the phone, when Inouye chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee, to discuss funds for important projects.

Video of the full 90-minute event is on our website and our YouTube page. Can’t watch the whole thing? The Inouye Institute has excerpted the discussion into easily digestible segments that include clips on bipartisanship, the role of Congress, the use of military force and the role of the media. You can watch those here.

Protecting National Security and Civil Liberties,” the second annual Daniel K. Inouye Distinguished Lecture, will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19, in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground level of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not needed, but an RSVP is required to [email protected]. The lecture is hosted by the Library’s John W. Kluge Center and is sponsored by the Daniel K. Inouye Institute, a program fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation, which was established in 2013 to honor the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye. Join us.


[1] Transcript of Opening Statement by Senator Inouye, May 5, 1987.  From “Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs,” a project of a public policy course at Brown University called Good Government, supervised by Professor of International and Public Affairs Professor of Political Science Ross Cheit. Accessed March 29, 2016. URL:

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