Sen. Kelly Ayotte Speaks on Restoring Confidence in Congress

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The New Hampshire Republican is the Perkins Bass Visitor at the Rockefeller Center.

Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte
Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte reads scripture at a memorial service for Sen. John McCain at Washington National Cathedral. (AP photo)

Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), a close ally of the late Sen. John McCain and the White House choice to shepherd Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch through meetings with lawmakers during his confirmation process, will deliver the Dartmouth Constitution Day address on federalism and restoring public confidence in government on Monday, Sept. 17.

Her lecture, titled “Can Federalism–The Genius of the Constitution–Restore Public Confidence in Congress and U.S. Government Institutions?” is the keynote address of the annual Constitution Day Program, hosted by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy. The event runs from 5 to 6:15 p.m. in Rockefeller Center room 003.

Ayotte comes to Dartmouth two weeks after speaking at McCain’s funeral in Washington National Cathedral. McCain, who planned his own funeral as a farewell message to America, asked that Ayotte take part in the service. She read a Bible passage from the Book of Wisdom that included the verse, “For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.”

Ayotte, a U.S. senator from 2011 to 2016 after serving as New Hampshire’s first female attorney general, is the Rockefeller Center’s 2018 Perkins Bass Distinguished Visitor. During her visitorship, Ayotte has participated in classes and engaged with students over the winter and spring terms. Before her lecture on Monday, she plans to attend Professor Lisa Baldez’s government seminar, “Gender and War,” and have dinner with students.

In the spring term, Ayotte participated in a Skype video conference with Research Assistant Professor Herschel Nachlis’ “Law, Courts, and Judges” class. Nachlis says he invited Ayotte to visit the class because of her “extensive and remarkably varied legal and political experience.”

Ayotte spoke with students about the legal system and the intersection of law and politics, and “shared candid life and career advice from across the stages of her time in public service, all of which strongly resonated with the class,” says Nachlis, a Rockefeller Center policy fellow.

In her Constitution Day address, Ayotte will look at the balance of power between federal and state governments and explore the proposition that the concentration of power at the federal verses the state level has contributed to growing dissatisfaction with Congress and other institutions. She argue that this trend can be reversed by returning a measure of power to the states.

“Reinvigorating federalism, as envisioned by the Founders and drafted in the structure of our Constitution, will make Congress more effective and will allow government to better serve the people,” Ayotte writes in a summary of her lecture.

As Dartmouth’s fifth Perkins Bass visitor, Ayotte follows former N.H. Gov. John Lynch; former state Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick; former Speaker of the N.H. House Terie Norelli; and former CEO and President of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation Lewis Feldstein.

The Perkins Bass Visitorship Program is supported by the Perkins Bass 1934 Fund, which was established in April 2012. The fund also supports internships for Dartmouth students working in public affairs in New Hampshire.

William Platt can be reached at

Bill Platt