In 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower swung through Jackson, Michigan, on a campaign tour, a nine-year-old boy waited in the crowd at the railroad station, hoping to meet the general. When Ike finally walked by, the boy thrust his hand through the line and touched the coat of the man who would soon be President. It was Dan Coats's first brush with politics.

Today Coats is a seasoned U.S. senator from Indiana, a post he has held since 1988 when he fulfilled the term left vacant by the election of Dan Quayle to the vice presidency. A graduate of Wheaton College (where he met his wife, Marcia), Coats was first elected to the House in 1980. This followed a stint in the military and a law practice in Fort Wayne, Indiana. During this time, he heard a talk by Chuck Colson that changed the direction of his life. "It was as if the other people in the room melted away," Coats says of the effect of the talk. He went home and, with Marcia at his side, dedicated himself to serving God fully in his career.

During the two decades of public service that followed, Coats, a Republican, has supported such conservative goals as a balanced budget, low taxes, a robust military, and strong families. He also authored a set of bills called "The Project for American Renewal." These initiatives emphasize what Coats calls a compassionate "shifting of power, money, and influence out of Washington" back to private organizations and religious charities.

Coats surprised the political world last year when he announced he would not seek re-election when his term expires in January of 1999. Instead, he would seek to further his goals through nonprofit and faith-based organizations. Robert Schwarzwalder, a member of the senator's staff from 1991 to 1994, talked with ...

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