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Visit includes time with students, Jenkins and a trip to ND Energy Center

Aaron Steiner | Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. got an inside look at Notre Dame’s work – both on-campus initiatives and academic research – on energy issues Wednesday, and he praised the University for that work.

“This University continues to make a difference everyday,” he said during opening remarks at a speech at Washington Hall, after visiting with University President Fr. John Jenkins, speaking with student leaders and visiting Notre Dame’s Energy Center, a research institution on campus.

Lugar formally recognized the student group GreeND by presenting the group with a Lugar Energy Patriot Award after his speech. Lugar cited the group’s work on game day recycling initiatives, nominating dorm sustainability commissioners and installing over 1,400 energy efficient light bulbs.

GreeND president Lourdes Long and vice president Colleen Kelly accepted the award on behalf of the group.

“We’re really excited to have had Sen. Lugar just with us today, and also for him to have taken the time to learn about what the University’s doing,” Long said.

Long said the group was honored to receive the award and said it spoke to the University’s commitment to energy issues and sustainability.

Kelly, who worked as an intern for Lugar last summer, agreed.

“[Sen. Lugar] coming here, and recognizing the [work] that’s going on with the University is a huge thing,” she said.

Kelly called him the Senate’s foremost expert on energy issues.

The pair, along with a dozen other Notre Dame students and a few faculty members, had the chance to talk with Lugar in depth about the issue over lunch Wednesday.

“He could have had lunch with whoever he wanted, but [that shows] his commitment to having an open dialogue with [student] leaders,” Long said.

Lugar said during his speech that through his visits with various group on campus he got a better idea of the work going on at Notre Dame.

“I had a wonderful opportunity to catch up on what was occurring at N.D., talk about what’s occurring in our country,” he said.

Lugar told The Observer after his presentation that he was especially impressed with the level of coordination among universities in Indiana and across the country.

“Not only is there an active research program [at Notre Dame] … but cooperation with Purdue, cooperation with [Indiana University], and that this has been encouraged by all parties,” he said. “That’s really important, and that’s reassuring to note that this is not an exclusive problem, but this knowledge … is widely shared, and so are some of the professors.”

Lugar has visited colleges across Indiana and seen firsthand the work they do on energy issues. He said his work in Congress has at times been related to gaining support for research projects at institutions like Notre Dame.

“I want to encourage this. We’re trying to get appropriations from Congress that are applicable to these projects,” he said. “I think the possibilities at Notre Dame are huge – this University has an international reputation, it has a national constituency,” Lugar said. “People love Notre Dame, but they’re surprised, I think, to understand how much is occurring in these laboratories, how many people right here are now devoted to this, how many gifted professors [are here].”

In addition to speaking about Notre Dame, Lugar also commented on the presidential election in comments to the media following his speech.

As a Republican, Lugar has endorsed Sen. John McCain, but he said he has had good relationships with both candidates.

“I’ve had a very good association with Senator McCain in the U.S. Senate for over two decades,” Lugar said. “I’ve seen him almost every day at the Senate sessions for all of these years.”

Sen. Barack Obama is a more recent figure in the U.S. Congress, but Lugar said he quickly made a positive impression.

“He has been a very good member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and we’ve introduced legislation together to help with arms control,” Lugar said.

Regardless of who is elected, Lugar said the next president and his administration would face significant challenges, related first to the economic crisis.

“I think this is a point in perhaps which there needs to be a breakthrough in terms of addressing the economy of this country,” Lugar said.

Economic issues, as well as a number of other urgent issues, including energy, will require some sense of urgency from the next president “to prepare the public for changes that are going to have to be made, in our country, in our lives and in our world,” he said.