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Sep 23rd, 2009

Former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Distinguished Professor in the Practice of National Governance at Georgetown University, will deliver the Third Annual Eugene McCarthy Lecture on Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. in the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater on the campus of St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Sen. Hagel will address the life of the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy (a 1935 St. John’s University graduate) and discuss issues raised in his recent book with Peter Kaminsky, America: Our Next Chapter — Tough Questions, Straight Answers (Ecco, 2008).

News release: Sept. 1, 2009

Sen. Chuck Hagel

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel Delivers Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. — In 1967-68, Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy opposed President Lyndon Johnsons policies regarding the Vietnam War — even though McCarthy initially supported the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that authorized American use of force in Vietnam.

On Aug. 25, 2005, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel became the first Republican senator to publicly criticize the Iraqi War and call for the withdrawal of American troops — even though Hagel initially supported the use of force in Iraq.

Almost 40 years apart, McCarthy and Hagel spoke out and challenged a U.S. foreign policy position advocated by the sitting president of their own party.

Hagel will deliver the third annual Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23 at the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater, Saint John’s University. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by The Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement, and is co-sponsored by the SJU University Chair in Critical Thinking.

Hagel, a native of North Platte, Neb., served in the Senate from 1997 to 2009 (he was not a candidate for reelection in 2008). He served on four Senate committees: Foreign Relations; Banking; Housing and Urban Affairs; and Intelligence and Rules.

A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Hagel served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army, where he earned two Purple Heart medals. Following his tour of duty, he was a newscaster and talk-show host in Omaha.

His career in Washington began in 1971, when he became an administrative assistant to Nebraska Congressman John McCollister, serving until 1977. Hagel then became manager of government affairs for the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company (1977-80) before returning to the governmental sector as deputy administrator of the U.S. Veterans Administration (1981-82).

After leaving the Veterans Administration, he became an investment banker and business executive in Washington and Omaha. Hagel was named deputy director and chief executive officer of the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations (G-7) in 1990.

Hagel has also co-written a book, America: Our Next Chapter: Tough Questions, Straight Answers (Ecco Press, 2008), with Peter Kaminsky. Former Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell said that Hagel “writes with insight, expertise, authority and with the credentials that come from his dedicated service in war and peace.”

The Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture was established in January 2006. McCarthy spent seven years as a student at Saint John’s Preparatory School and University, and nearly one year as a member of the Benedictine community of Saint John’s Abbey.

The lecture series carries on McCarthy’s deep commitment to the ideals and principles of democratic self-government. It seeks to inspire a new generation of young people to pursue fresh ideas, to challenge the status quo, to effect positive change in their communities and, like McCarthy himself, to lead with honesty, integrity and courage.

Past lecturers in the series have included newspaper columnist, author and commentator E.J. Dionne (2007), and civil rights leader Julian Bond (2008).


More About Sen. Chuck Hagel

Biographical note

Chuck Hagel served two terms in the U.S. Senate. In 1968 he served alongside his brother Tom in Vietnam, where both were infantry squad leaders with the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division. Hagel earned several military decorations and honors, including two Purple Hearts.

Purple Heart

Book description – America: Our Next Chapter

Sen. Chuck Hagel has long been admired by his colleagues on both sides of the Senate floor for his honesty, integrity, and common-sense approach to the challenges of our times. The Los Angeles Times has praised his “bold positions on foreign policy and national security” and wondered, “What’s not to like?” In America: Our Next Chapter, Nebraska-born Hagel offers a hard-hitting examination of the current state of our nation and provides substantial, meaningful proposals that can guide America back onto the right path.

In America: Our Next Chapter, Hagel speaks the truth as he sees it — in a direct and refreshingly unvarnished manner. Basing his suggestions on thorough research and careful thought, as well as on personal insight from his years as a political insider, successful businessman, and decorated war hero, he discusses domestic issues — including the health care crisis, immigration, and Social Security and Medicare reform — and global climate change.

He confronts foreign policy problems that the Bush administration bungled or ignored, including China’s growing economy; control of U.S. debt; India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities; and Iran’s aggressive political, ideological, and nuclear stances. He decries the pervasive disease of Third World poverty, arguing convincingly that this is where the real fight against terrorism must begin.

Always true to the beliefs instilled in his childhood on the prairie, he speaks passionately about service — to one’s country and to one’s fellow citizens — as the path toward a renewed America. And, of course, he gives a candid examination of the debacle that was the Iraq War.

A staunch Republican … Hagel asks the tough questions and delivers straight answers to America’s most pressing problems. America: Our Next Chapter is a serious, honest, and, ultimately, optimistic look at our nation’s future, from an American original.


Sen. Chuck Hagel on National Security

Read Sen. Hagel’s Washington Post op-ed, “The limits of force” (Sept. 3, 2009). This op-ed was published in the Star Tribune on Sept. 5. Here are some reader comments:

Thank you for your insight Sen. Hagel

This is the kind of sensible thought that made me proud to be a Republican so many years ago. Alas, where have the likes of you gone?

Posted by daidalus on Sept. 4, 2009 at 7:01 PM

These are Statesman words

Chuck Hagel is a man of vision, integrity and true patriotism. He has earned the respect of all Americans. It is sad that this man of wisdom is not the leader of his party.

Posted by reasonable2 on Sept. 5, 2009 at 10:52 AM

A refreshing perspective

How wonderful to hear a Republican speak something sensible. Not just Rush Limbaugh, FOX news, Shawn Hannity and O’Reilly. There is actually someone who thinks in the party and not just another bomb throwing, paranoid disperser of disinformation, ideology and hyperbole. There is hope for us yet.

Posted by roosevelt194 on Sept. 5, 2009 at 12:39 PM

Kudos to Hagel

Wish he had a larger platform in the party! What a thoughtful piece.

Posted by marciacarlso on Sept. 5, 2009 at 2:44 PM

My hat is off to you, Sir!

Thank you Senator Hagel for such a reasoned and non-partisan piece about something so important to our country — This type of thoughtful analysis is what I believe most of us in this country really desire …. and so rarely see in today’s world of “politics.”

Posted by 2bornot2b on Sept. 5, 2009 at 8:05 PM

How great to hear Republicans speak well of a man like Hagel!

It helps to know that what I call “real” Republicans still exist. For what has happened to your party, see Max Blumenthal’s new book, “Republican Gomorrah,” and his recent article about it in the NY Times. He notes that Eisenhower warned not just about the military industrial complex, but about the rise of extremism within the Republican Party, likening it to Eric Hoffer’s description of the “True Believers” who need strong leaders to follow. Over the years, right wing church leaders like (especially) James Dobson and politicians transformed the party until it now harbors the angry, abusive crowds we see at health care forums around the country. They are its base and Sarah Palin its idea of a good mom and a good vice president. Mr. Blumenthal also appeared on Amy Goodman, so you can find the interview with him there. Very enlightening.

Posted by bernice3 on Sept. 7, 2009 at 12:52 PM


In the Media

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel to Speak in Collegeville, Minn.

By Bob Von Sternberg
Star Tribune
September 3, 2009

Former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel will deliver the annual Eugene McCarthy Lecture at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., this month.

The speech by Hagel represents something of a historical convergence: Dedicated to the memory of one of the most trenchant Democratic opponents of the Vietnam War, it’s being delivered by the first Republican senator to oppose the war in Iraq.

McCarthy, whose 1968 presidential run effectively toppled President Lyndon Johnson, attended St. John’s and was a member of the Benedictine community at St. John’s Abbey. He served in Congress from 1949 until 1971.

Hagel represented Nebraska in the Senate from 1997 until this year. A Vietnam veteran, he was considered a maverick in the GOP and his name was floated last year as a potential running mate or Cabinet member for President Obama.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23.


Hagel Plans to Speak His Mind At Event

By David Aeikens
St. Cloud Times
September 23, 2009

COLLEGEVILLE — Chuck Hagel said politicians owe it to their country to speak their minds.

The former U.S. Senator, a Republican from Nebraska, spoke his mind four years ago when he said the U.S. ought to get out of Iraq. Tonight, he will deliver the third Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture at St. John’s University and will compare some of the lessons from McCarthy to today’s political environment.

“The worst thing they can do is not speak out at a time when they know in their own minds and heart, they know something is wrong for America. McCarthy had that courage. He was very much a standard and role model for politicians,” Hagel said in a phone interview from Washington, D.C.

Hagel, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1996-2008, gave some thought to running for president in 2008. He decided an outspoken opponent of the Iraq war could not get the Republican nomination that year and he has stayed active by teaching at Georgetown University, serving on policy boards and committees and advising foreign policy officials in the Obama administration. Throughout it all, he said he has spoken his mind.

Speaking his mind has not always won Hagel favor with Republicans.

“I think there is going to be a fair amount of disagreement with some of the things he says just because he hasn’t toed the party line that much,” said Luke Yurczyk of Sartell, chairman of the Senate District 14 Republican Party. “Throughout the years, there were many instances he was in conflict with rank and file anyway.”

Gary Gross, of St. Cloud, a conservative who writes on a Web site called “Let Freedom Ring,” criticized Hagel last fall as he was being considered for defense secretary.

“I certainly had a few differences with the gentleman,” Gross said.

Gross said Hagel was being intellectually dishonest when he kept demanding the president explain why the U.S. needed to continue its efforts in Iraq. He said that many Republicans have moved on.

“I’m pretty certain they were upset with Senator Hagel about the criticism of a sitting president; whether or not they would stay upset, I would rather doubt that. He certainly served his country with distinction in the military. He is a serious man,” Gross said.

Hagel shrugs at the criticism, saying people often forget he stood with President Bush on immigration and Social Security. He said he was and is a Republican because of his beliefs of the role of government in people’s lives.

“I was never bothered by the fact people disagreed with me. That’s OK,” Hagel said.

Hagel said the country is at a defining moment, similar to what McCarthy faced in 1968 when he criticized Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s handling of the Vietnam War. He said the country and democracy are being damaged by the tone and partisanship that is driving debates such as health care.

“We need not be paralyzed by the partisanship and the raw political presence that has captured the dynamic,” Hagel said.

Hagel comes to Collegeville almost a year out of office, having flirted with a presidential bid, been floated as a candidate for defense secretary and having written a book with Peter Kaminsky, “America: Our Next Chapter: Tough Questions, Straight Answers.”

Richard Ice, a St. John’s University political science professor, local Democrat activist and member of the committee that helped select Hagel, said he’s not sure what to expect.

“I think the discussion will happen after he comes. That is why we are bringing him in is to start a discussion. He was in the Senate, now he is out. He can kind of reflect back,” Ice said.

For Hagel, who was born in North Platte, Neb., it is a return to Minnesota, where he attended what was then called Brown Institute in Minneapolis. He worked in radio in Omaha for three years before he went to the war in Vietnam, where he received two Purple Heart commendations. He entered politics in 1971 as an top aide to U.S. Rep. Jon McCollister. …


Hagel’s Stand

By Robert D. Novak

April 30, 2007

Sen. Chuck Hagel returned from his fifth visit to Iraq to become one of two Republicans to join Senate Democrats in voting Thursday to begin withdrawal of U.S. troops. It was not an easy vote for a conservative GOP regular and faithful supporter of President George W. Bush’s other policies. A few days earlier, Hagel sat down with me and painted a bleak picture of the war and U.S. policy. …

Hagel faces a political paradox as he ponders a career decision — whether to run for president, to seek reelection next year or to get out of elective politics. His harsh assessment resonates with many Republicans who believe Bush’s war policy has led the party to disaster. …

Hagel certainly is no peace-now zealot. “We’re not going to precipitously pull out,” he told me. “We have [national] interests in Iraq.” While he asserted that “we can’t get out by the end of the year,” he called for “pulling some of our guys out — not all of them, but you’ve got to get them out of [Baghdad] at least, get them out of the middle of civil war.” If not, Hagel said, “then the prospects of the Republican Party are very dim next year.”

What about claims by proponents of the Iraqi intervention that failure to stop the terrorists in Iraq will open the door to them in the American homeland?

“That’s nonsense,” Hagel replied. “I’ve never believed that. That’s the same kind of rhetoric and thinking that neocons used to get us into this mess and everything that [Donald] Rumsfeld, [Paul] Wolfowitz, [Richard] Perle, [Douglas] Feith and the vice president all said. Nothing turned out the way they said it would.”

It is “nonsense,” Hagel said, because “Iraq is not embroiled in a terrorist war today.” Hagel, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, cited “national intelligence” attributing “maybe 10 percent” of the insurgency and violence to al-Qaeda. Indeed, he described Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds as opposed to al-Qaeda: “They don’t like the terrorists. What’s happened in Anbar province is the tribes are finally starting to connect with us because al-Qaeda started killing some of their leadership and threatening their people. So the tribes now are at war with al-Qaeda.”

“So,” said Hagel, “when I hear people say, ‘Well, if we leave them to that, it will be chaos’ — what do you think is going on now? Scaring the American people into this blind alley is so dangerous.”

These judgments come from someone credited with rebuilding Nebraska’s Republican Party and who has earned a lifetime conservative voting rating of 85.2 percent from the American Conservative Union. Hagel represents millions of Republicans who are repelled by the Democrats’ personal assault on President Bush but are deeply unhappy about his course in Iraq.


Hagel’s Dilemma

By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
The American Conservative
April 9, 2007


Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) on his vote for the 2002 Senate resolution authorizing the president to go to war in Iraq:

“I laid out all of my reservations about the resolution, he said, referring to his Oct. 9, 2002 floor speech. “In the end, I voted for it because I was told by the administration that the president would not use military force unless all diplomatic options were exercised — they were not — but I think it’s always dangerous not to give your president leverage and latitude, allowing him to deal with the international arena with unlimited powers.”

“Would I vote for it today? No, I wouldn’t,” he added flatly. “We went into Iraq based on flawed judgment, based on dishonest motives, based on flawed intelligence, and we have a very, very big problem today.” …


Related reports on this site

The private war of Chuck and Tom Hagel
Chuck Hagel (right) serving with his brother Tom in Vietnam.

Endorsement: Sen. Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense (Dec. 21, 2012)

Chuck Hagel McCarthy Lecture (Sept. 24, 2009)

Sen. Chuck Hagel on National Defense (Sept. 3, 2009)

Chuck Hagel to Deliver Eugene McCarthy Lecture (July 29, 2009)

Hagel Lambasts Limbaugh (Nov. 19, 2008)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — September 23, 2008

An Iraqi mother weeps over the body of her dead daughter outside the morgue in the city of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, on Sept. 22, 2008. According to witnesses the 3-year-old child was shot dead by accident when a roadside bomb detonated as an Iraqi army patrol drove past. The army opened fire and a civilian car carrying the child and her family was hit. (Photo credit: Stringer / AFP / Getty Images)

After the Primary Election: Day 14

One year ago today, on the 14th day after losing my 2008 primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, in line with my focus on national security, I reported on security incidents and U.S. military deaths in Iraq, a bombing in Afghanistan, and violence in Pakistan.

8 Responses to “Chuck Hagel Speaks in Minnesota”
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