Congressman Lee Hamilton ’52 Addresses Syrian Refugee Crisis and U.S. Immigration

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Students, staff and Greencastle residents filled the Union Building Ballroom on Thursday to hear from Congressional Representative Lee Hamilton, a recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Congressman Hamilton addressed the Syrian refuge crisis and U.S. immigration.

Hamilton was a 1952 graduate of DePauw, where he was a history major and a basketball standout. He is a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and DePauw University Basketball Hall of Fame. He served 34 years in Congress.

John Schlotterbeck, Professor of History, facilitated the discussion. He opened by addressing two events that served as the focal points around the Syrian refuge crisis and U.S. immigration: when a 3-year old boy washed up on the shore after the boat he and his family were escaping on capsized, and when terrorists who impersonated Syrian refugees attacked a concert venue in Paris.

In response to the tensions and complicated conversations that resulted from these events, Hamilton returned to his alma matter to share his views on these matters.

“When I sit at that table, I want to know whether or not you want to make this country work,” he said. “That’s what I’m interested in.”

Hamilton said politicians are dealing with tough problems that are much different from the issues that former Congressmen have faced. Immigration is such a hot topic because people are afraid of the country changing.

Sophomore Miranda Dafoe hosted a panel last semester on the Syrian refuge crisis.

“It was great to hear what an expert had to say on it,” she said. “I thought he did a great job of representing everything the government stands for and what their perspective is on the crisis, which is helpful, especially as a student.”

According to Hamilton, identifying from where these immigrants are coming and the hardships they face will help us deal with solving the Syria’s fundamental problems. He said the U.S. has a major role in this, and we are not yet doing our share.

As Americans, Hamilton said our temptation is often to react with guns. However, we have other tools at our disposal that we can use to combat the issue. By sharpening our diplomatic and economic aid and getting the right people to the table, we can increase our chances of success.

“I enjoy hearing someone that is so knowledge discuss such a relevant topic,” sophomore Erika Killion said.

Sophomore Victoria Houghtalen agreed.

“I appreciated Congressman Hamilton’s discussion not only because it was intellectually stimulating but morally stimulating,” Houghtalen said. “[I loved] the different ideas that he represented on what we should do as a county, not just what’s going on in our current news cycle, but what we should be doing and the responsibility that we have."

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