HETRICK: Thoughts on losing Lugar and his legacy of leadership

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Bruce Hetrick

One evening while attending Indiana University, I walked over to a lounge at a neighboring dormitory for a conversation with Indiana’s junior senator. As a political science major, I was eager to hear what Dick Lugar had to say.

I don’t remember the details of that group discussion, but I do remember that Lugar impressed me greatly—so much so that at some point in the months that followed, I decided I might someday want to become a Senate press secretary. And I figured the best way to launch that pursuit was to score a summer internship in Lugar’s office.

In hopes of landing the coveted gig, I agonized over a cover letter and resume. Finally satisfied, I mailed my sales pitch and eagerly awaited the verdict.

Several weeks later, I opened my mailbox to find an envelope from Lugar’s office. I tore it open, only to discover a rejection letter. It was signed by someone named Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., chief of staff.

If I’d only known.

While I didn’t get the Washington internship, I did land one in the mayor’s office in Fort Wayne. One of my responsibilities that summer was to assist the Mayor’s Youth Commission, a group of high school students interested in government.

One day, we took a field trip to Indianapolis. The mayor wanted us to learn about Unigov, which combined city and county government into a single entity.

When we arrived at the City-County Building, our host was a young deputy mayor who’d gotten his start under Mayor Dick Lugar and continued under Mayor Bill Hudnut. His name was John Krauss.

Little did I know that, 30 years later, Krauss would head the IU Public Policy Institute, I’d be his PR counsel, and we’d both be working with Gov. Mitch Daniels on a local government reform initiative.

Having parlayed that mayoral PR internship into a full-time job as a public information officer and speechwriter, I developed a deep respect for government press secretaries. Knowing firsthand the daily think-on-your-feet pressure-cooker, I’ve hired several press secretaries—Republicans and Democrats—during my career.

One of them was Nick Weber, who’d been press secretary for Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith. Nick worked for my PR firm in between political jobs, leaving to take the position I’d envisioned during college: Senate PR guy. Nick did stints in Lugar’s Washington and Indianapolis offices, and later became manager of Lugar’s 2006 re-election campaign.

The day after that election, I walked over to IUPUI to hear Lugar speak. Like all the other times I’ve had that privilege, he waxed eloquent on state, national and international affairs. Afterward, I complimented him on his remarks and on Nick’s good work on his behalf.

“Nick’s quite the campaign manager,” Lugar said with a wink. “He delivered 87 percent of the vote-–the highest margin of any Senate campaign in the country.” (Inside joke: Lugar ran unopposed by any major-party candidate.)

A few years later, I joined a group of smoke-free-workplace advocates for a meeting in Lugar’s Indianapolis office. We’d come to discuss some pending federal legislation.

As we sat in the conference room talking with Lugar’s aides, I looked at the chart on the wall showing the steady and significant decrease in nuclear weapons negotiated by Lugar and former Sen. Sam Nunn.

It made me proud that Indiana had produced a statesman who was playing not just the routine policy and constituent-service roles, but also making the world safer. When I got home from that meeting, I wrote Lugar a thank you note.

A few years ago, my niece, Adrienne Romary–-then a Butler University pre-law student—decided to pursue an internship in the U.S. Senate. She agonized over a cover letter and resume, sent them off to Sen. Dick Lugar, and eagerly awaited the verdict.

When the response arrived, Adrienne sent an excited e-mail to her Uncle Bruce. She got the gig.

That summer, Adrienne sent me a series of e-mails expressing admiration for her boss the senator, his staff and the work they were doing on behalf of people in Indiana and globally.

I was only a wee bit jealous.

When you’re blessed with a leader who has a vision beyond the status quo and who has principles beyond mere partisanship, you’re also blessed with talented people who choose to serve under that leader.

From Mitch Daniels to John Krauss, Nick Weber to Adrienne Romary, Dick Lugar inspired good people, whetted their appetite for public service, and delivered generation after generation of informed and involved citizens.

As one who first heard this insightful man in a college dormitory 35 years ago, I find it a crying shame that his character, principles and accomplishments have been shoved unceremoniously aside–-all in the name of rabid partisanship.

We’ve tossed out one of the best. It’s our loss, and the planet’s.•


Hetrick is an Indianapolis-based writer, speaker and public relations consultant. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.


  • Thank you Bruce
    Thank you for sharing your history. I, too, am saddened by the turn of events for Lugar. I so appreciate his willingness to go across party lines and the class in which he represented our state. While some people say he was absent...I always felt connect to Senator Lugar even though I've never met him.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Looking at the two companies - in spite of their relative size to one another -- Ricker's image is (by all accounts) pretty solid and reputable. Their locations are clean, employees are friendly and the products they offer are reasonably priced. By contrast, BP locations are all over the place and their reputation is poor, especially when you consider this is the same "company" whose disastrous oil spill and their response was nothing short of irresponsible should tell you a lot. The fact you also have people who are experienced in franchising saying their system/strategy is flawed is a good indication that another "spill" has occurred and it's the AM-PM/Ricker's customers/company that are having to deal with it.

  2. Daniel Lilly - Glad to hear about your points and miles. Enjoy Wisconsin and Illinois. You don't care one whit about financial discipline, which is why you will blast the "GOP". Classic liberalism.

  3. Isn't the real reason the terrain? The planners under-estimated the undulating terrain, sink holes, karst features, etc. This portion of the route was flawed from the beginning.

  4. You thought no Indy was bad, how's no fans working out for you? THe IRl No direct competition and still no fans. Hey George Family, spend another billion dollars, that will fix it.

  5. I live downtown Indy and had to be in downtown Chicago for a meeting. In other words, I am the target demographic for this train. It leaves at 6:00-- early but doable. Then I saw it takes 5+ hours. No way. I drove. I'm sure I paid 3 to 5 times as much once you factor in gas, parking, and tolls, but it was reimbursed so not a factor for me. Any business traveler is going to take the option that gets there quickly and reliably... and leisure travelers are going to take the option that has a good schedule and promotional prices (i.e., Megabus). Indy to Chicago is the right distance (too short to fly but takes several hours to drive) that this train could be extremely successful even without subsidies, if they could figure out how to have several frequencies (at least 3x/day) and make the trip in a reasonable amount of time. For those who have never lived on the east coast-- Amtrak is the #1 choice for NY-DC and NY-Boston. They have the Acela service, it runs almost every hour, and it takes you from downtown to downtown. It beats driving and flying hands down. It is too bad that we cannot build something like this in the midwest, at least to connect the bigger cities.