In early 2004, as Dan Coats was preparing to return to the United States following his service as US Ambassador to Germany, he and Jay Hein determined that America needed a think tank based in the heartland’s values and geography. In contrast to the noise and rancor coming from Washington, D.C., Sagamore Institute was formed that same year to tackle difficult issues with civility and focus on solutions not ideology.
One of Indiana’s Native American tribes coined the term Sagamore to identify the member who grapples with serious questions, helps build consensus, and offers wisdom and advice. This is exactly the type of think tank we wanted to build: a place that leaned into hard problems with sleeves rolled up alongside public and private leaders to dedicated to making the world a better place.
It’s been said that if you want to consume community or culture, it’s good to live in great cities like New York or Los Angeles where there is much to partake. But if you want to produce culture or community assets, there is no place better than Indianapolis. Our headquarters city has a rich civic spirit and long tradition of citizen-led innovations.
To further this legacy, Sagamore hosts the annual Indiana Conference on Citizenship. Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was among Indiana’s first citizens? His family moved to the Indiana Territory merely weeks before statehood was established in 1816. Lincoln’s legacy has a deep imprint on Sagamore’s citizenship agenda: from his days as a boy reading fireside in our state’s frontier to his heroic efforts to preserve our nation as president, we seek to inspire the next generation of educated and engaged citizens.
In tandem with establishing our headquarters in Indianapolis, we opened a field office in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2004. The home of Thomas Jefferson seemed like the perfect complement to our heartland roots since we are dedicated to extending national influence from our places of local innovation.
But it was Jefferson’s idea of the “academical village” that resonates even more deeply in Sagamore’s story. His architectural designs called for faculty townhouses to be interspersed with student apartments enabling the transfer of wisdom in community not just the classroom. This mirrors Sagamore’s scholars working alongside citizens across the globe.
Sagamore’s offices in Indiana and Virginia, as well as our “distributed network of scholar-practitioners” advance our mutual commitment to impact and influence.
Why the Levey Mansion?
Sagamore’s headquarters building was built by Louis Levey in the early 20th century. Mr. Levey was a print shop owner and friends with fellow citizens such as literary giant James Whitcomb Riley and his next door neighbor Charles W. Fairbanks, who served as Teddy Roosevelt’s Vice President.
We enjoy recalling this glorious past while convening important conversations aimed at improving our city, state, and nation.