The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, headquartered in a wing of the Ronald Reagan Building, in Washington D.C., is the country’s official living memorial to America’s 28th President. A non-partisan institution, the Wilson Center sponsors fellowships, initiatives, projects, and programs to commemorate the ideals Woodrow Wilson championed. The center provides a forum for linking the worlds of policies and ideas, through research, study, and discussions among an eclectic mix of esteemed individuals, from wide-ranging fields, whom the Wilson Center brings to Washington to foster dialogues on public policy issues, most of which are free, and open to the public.
The Wilson Center’s Director of its Middle East Program, Iranian-American Haleh Esfandiari, was arrested in Tehran on May 8, 2007, and detained in solitary confinement by the Iranian government. She was charged with seeking to topple that nation’s ruling establishment. After an international campaign on her behalf, Esfandiari was released on August 21, 2007, and returned to work at the Wilson Center shortly thereafter.
Congress established the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in the Smithsonian Institution when it passed The Woodrow Wilson Memorial Act of 1968. The act mandated that there be a Board of Trustees for the Wilson Center made up of 17 members, including the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of State, the Archivist of the United States, the Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Librarian of Congress, and the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. The President appoints the other ten members, nine from the private sector, and one from the federal government. The Trustees serve six-year terms, and provide guidance to the Center’s Director and staff; maintain and administer the Center, including the provision of facilities, staffing, and appointment of scholars; and where appropriate, provide stipends, grants, and fellowships to such scholars, from the United States and aboard. The Center is also to be advised and supported by the Wilson Council, a group of approximately 122 private citizens, whose members are drawn largely from the business world, and those in the professions and public service.
In 1976, the Wilson Center began printing The Wilson Quarterly, which features non-partisan and non-ideological articles by academicians, experts, and other voices, written for a broad audience, on issues that include politics and policy, culture, religion, and science. It currently has a readership of more than 60,000.
In 1988, the center launched production of a weekly radio program, Dialogue, which explores ideas and issues through in-depth half-hour interviews with renowned public figures. It was eventually developed into a television series, which is currently available in more than 30 million households across the United States. The radio version is heard weekly on 100 public and commercial U.S. radio stations and internationally on NPR Worldwide Satellite and Armed Forces Radio.
In 1997, the Wilson Center moved from its initial offices, in the Smithsonian Institution, to its current home in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
Since 1999, through an international competition, the Wilson Center has supported residential fellowships to academics, public officials, journalists, and business professionals, to conduct research and write in their areas of interest, and to interact with policymakers in Washington D.C. and other scholars and staff at the Wilson Center.
Also since 1999, the Wilson Center has set up an assortment of national and international programs, including: the Africa Program; Asia Program; Brazil Institute; Canada Institute; China Environment Forum; Cold War International History Project; Comparative Urban Studies Project; Congress Project; Environmental Change and Security Program; European Studies; History and Public Policy Program; International Security Studies; Kennan Institute; Kissinger Institute on China and the United States; Global Health Initiative; Latin American Program; Mexico Institute; Middle East Program; North Korea International Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project; Program on America and the Global Economy; Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity; Science and Technology Innovation Program; United States Studies; and Wilson Center on the Hill..
In 2010, the Wilson Center launched the Distinguished Scholars Initiative, which brings one or two preeminent scholars to the center each year to conduct research and participate in discussion on important public policy concerns.
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars brings preeminent thinkers from around the world to Washington D.C. for extended periods of time, to research, write, and interact with the Washington policy community. They include people in academia, the corporate sector, diplomats, the general public, government officials, individuals from the non-profit world, and journalists. The center provides around 150 residential scholars a year an office, telephone, computer, part-time research assistant, and stipend, with approximately 22-25 competing for fellowships for the full nine-month academic year. Roughly 70% of the visiting scholars are American, and about 70% are pursuing international policy issues. Close to 75 each year are in programs for Russian-area and East European specialists. There is also one fellowship named in honor of a former Center Fellow from St. Petersburg, who was murdered in her hometown in 1998: The Galina Starovoitova Fellowship.
Additional Wilson Center activities include:
From the Web Site of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
According to USASpending.gov, the Wilson Center has spent nearly $160,000 during this decade on 19 contractor transactions for services ranging from printing/binding ($23,042) and property maintenance/repair ($7,866) to office furniture ($7,565), motion picture cameras ($4,964) and public relations ($,4800).
The top recipients of contractor spending by the Wilson Center since 2002 were:
Paragon Communications Inc. $19,320
Commercial Carpets of America Inc. $13,705
East View Information SVC $12,907
Reed Elsevier Group PLC $11,148
Lee H. Hamilton, who was the Director of the Wilson Center from 1999 until 2010, earned a BA from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, in 1952, and a JD from the Indiana University School of Law, Bloomington, in 1956. For the next ten years he worked as a lawyer in private practice. After that, he was elected, as part of the national Democratic landslide of 1964, to the House of Representatives, where he chaired many committees during his 34 years in the office, including the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran. Since leaving Congress, Hamilton has also served in many political-related capacities, including as a member of the Hart-Rudman Commission; co-chair of the Baker-Hamilton Commission to Investigate Certain Security Issues at Los Alamos; as vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission; as a member of the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform; and as co-chair, along with former Secretary of State James A. Baker, of the Iraq Study Group. Hamilton also sits on many advisory boards, including those to the CIA, the President’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, and the United States Army. In addition, he is an advisory board member and co-chair of the Partnership for a Secure America, and Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University.
Hamilton is also the author of two books: How Congress Works and Why You Should Care, Strengthening Congress, and A Creative Tension: The Foreign Policy Roles of the President and Congress. In addition, he co-authored, with former Governor Thomas Kean, Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission.
A nine-mile stretch of I-265 and Indiana 265 in Floyd and Clark counties, part of Hamilton’s former House district, was designed the “Lee H. Hamilton Highway” shortly after his retirement from the House in 1999.
Lee H. Hamilton, a Compromiser Who Operates Above the Partisan Fray (by Philip Shenon, New York Times)
Jane Harman announced on February 7, 2011, that she was resigning as a U.S. congresswoman to become head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Washington, D.C. think tank devoted to the ideals of former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Her husband, Sidney Harman, died two months later. At the time of her resignation, Harman was the third richest member of Congress, behind only Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California).