Documentary details career of longest serving Indiana senator

A willingness to reach across the aisle has been the defining signature for Indiana’s longest serving senator both during and after his political career.

A documentary co-produced by WFYI Public Media and, a news website managed by Franklin College journalism students, combines interviews with former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar along with insight from relatives, friends, Indiana leaders and political allies to highlight a career of public service by the state’s longest serving senator.

The documentary, titled “Richard Lugar: Reason’s Quiet Warrior” details the story of a political career focused on bipartisanship.

“It was an overwhelming experience,” Lugar said after watching the documentary during a showing at Franklin College this week.

Lugar entered politics in the era of Sens. Joseph McCarthy and Barry Goldwater, and quickly found his place as someone who was willing to work across the aisle. That willingness to work with members of the other party won Lugar respect, but it was his ties to one particular Democrat, former senator and then-President Barack Obama, that became a key point of attack when Lugar was defeated in a 2012 primary.

However, it was Lugar’s bipartisan work with former Democrat Sen. Sam Nunn that resulted in one of his most important legislative achievements, the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which provided aid to nations in the former Soviet Union to ensure that their stockpiles of weapons were protected and didn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Since leaving the senate at the beginning of 2013, Lugar continued to advance his political causes through a nonprofit organized called The Lugar Center. One key focus has been on encouraging members of Congress to work together, and the center publishes rankings of politicians based on how often they seek to work with the opposing political party on legislation.

“We started this index with the thought that we were really at rock bottom in terms of partisanship in the country 10 years ago,” Lugar said.

The goal of the index is to show people which of their politicians have been willing to set aside party affiliation to work on the behalf of the American people and avoid political inaction and gridlock, he said.

While the documentary covers the span of Lugar’s political career, it also delves into more personal moments, such as how Lugar met his wife when they were leaders of student government in college and the lessons he learned as a child from his parents.

In the documentary, Lugar cites his mother as someone who instilled in him the need for thoughtfulness, while the lesson he recalls from his father was the importance of telling the truth. Political allies described Lugar’s trustworthiness as a key factor in how he was able to gain the respect of leaders of both parties and serve as a mediator while legislative compromise was being formed.

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A documentary about former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar will air later this month. Here’s how you can watch:

What: Richard Lugar: Reason’s Quiet Warrior

When: 9 p.m. May 21

Where: WFYI-TV