The Roosevelt-Wilson Award is named for two former AHA presidents who were also presidents of the United States: Theodore Roosevelt (1912) and Woodrow Wilson (1924). It recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the study, teaching, and public understanding of history.

The American Historical Association takes great pleasure in presenting its Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service to the Honorable Lee H. Hamilton, representative from Indiana’s 9th district from 1965 to 1999 and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington from 1999 to December 2010.


Lee Hamilton is probably best known nationally and internationally for his role as vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, an effort which included historians and historical research to provide a full account of what happened before, during and after September 11, 2001. On the 9/11 Commission, as earlier in his congressional career, first as chair of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the US Congress and then as chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hamilton vigorously supported access and transparency on declassification issues

In his long congressional career Lee Hamilton was also concerned about education as well as access. He was a joint sponsor of the National Foundation for the Arts and Humanities Act of 1965, which created the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1967. In Indiana, one of two pilot states for the development of National History Day, he was crucial to building support for the program in its earliest years, and as one former Indiana History Day director put it, he “was steadfast in his support for History Day throughout the rest of his career in the House.” Another writes that “…I would say that Hamilton’s biggest contribution to the study of history and civic culture has been in the form of the Center on Congress here at IU…. Founded in 1999 it is dedicated to better educating the public about the history and role of the national legislature in our democracy.” In 2005 Hamilton received a Living Legend Award from the Indiana Historical Society.

Lee Hamilton is recently retired as president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, established in 1968 by the Congress as a memorial to President Woodrow Wilson. Its purpose is to “unite the world of ideas to the world of policy by supporting pre-eminent scholarship and linking that scholarship to issues of concern to officials in Washington.” Under his leadership the role of history in the Woodrow Wilson Center has grown substantially. Not only has he maintained firm support for the Cold War International History Project, now nearly two decades old, he has defined history and historical context to public policy issues as one of the four pillars of Wilson Center priorities and established a new program in history and public policy.

We are proud to acknowledge Lee Hamilton tonight for his sustained support of history his determined efforts to make sure that citizens have access to the nation’s past.