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In this era of strident partisanship, some would argue that moderate, collaborative politicians like Birch Bayh and Richard Lugar couldn't be effective leaders.

Politicians, some believe, must swing far to the left or far to the right to secure a motivated base of voters.

The less cynical among us reject this thinking.

Now, more than ever, this country needs leaders like Bayh, who died in March at age 91, and Lugar, who died Sunday at 87.

Both Hoosiers played significant roles in national leadership during long careers as U.S. senators.

Lugar helped shape foreign policy and led the way in developing and implementing a program that disposed of much of the nuclear weapon arsenals of former Soviet states.

Bayh, meanwhile, wrote two amendments to the U.S. Constitution and was a driving force behind Title IX, which legislated equal opportunities for women in education, sports and other fields.

Lugar and Bayh both had pivotal roles in establishing other public policy that helped propel this country forward for several decades.

We haven't mentioned yet that Lugar was a Republican and Bayh was a Democrat.

While they were strong, resolute members of their parties, neither let their political affiliation define them. Instead, they worked in concert with other government leaders, routinely reaching across the aisle.

They compromised when necessary, always keeping an eye on what was best for America and Americans.

To say those were kinder, gentler times in our country's political history would be an oversimplification.

From the 1970s through the early 2000s, the United States desperately needed leaders like Bayh and Lugar to find middle ground for progress.

And we desperately need such leaders now.

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