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The flame of political engagement continues to burn brightly at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. In an emotional ceremony marking the IOP’s 40th anniversary at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum on Friday night, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) declared that the idealism President Kennedy represented for one generation of Americans lives on through the Institute’s continued involvement with subsequent generations.
“[Kennedy’s brother] Bobby and I knew that when Jack was a student here at Harvard, something had sparked that flame within him, and we hoped that the IOP would do the same for succeeding generations of undergraduates,” he said. “We wanted this Institute to inspire young men and women not just to public service, but to real and active involvement in the life of our communities, our nation and our time.”
Sen. Kennedy’s speech was the start of a full weekend of commemorative events for the Institute, which included an on-stage interview with the senator and former PBS contributor and CNN “Inside Politics” host Judy Woodruff, and panel discussions focusing on the 2006 election, technological change, and America’s young leaders.
After being introduced by his niece and IOP Senior Advisory Committee member Caroline Kennedy, Sen. Kennedy helped frame the Institute’s weekend of celebrations by highlighting how important the essence of politics was to the IOP’s inspiration, President Kennedy.
“Jack loved and lived by the famous words of John Buchan in ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ – that ‘Politics is still the greatest and most honorable adventure,’” Sen. Kennedy said. “As long as you carry within you the faith that those words are true, they’ll remain true, no matter how that faith is challenged by day-to-day events.”
Sen. Kennedy urged the Institute to continue to serve an ongoing role as a “forum for world leaders to speak their views and as a space for students and citizens to respond,” but also as an instrument that could help to improve the tone of today’s political discourse.
Sen. Kennedy contrasted the 1960’s brand of politics – what he termed as bi-partisan “politics of hope” – and the brand seen most often today – the “politics of fear” characterized by extreme partisanship and divisiveness. Kennedy stressed that the Institute of Politics could help reshape the future political climate by continuing its work to inspire young people.
“As bitter debates and narrow partisanship mar our political discourse, let us re-emphasize the IOP’s extraordinary role of engaging students in debate for the purpose of coming together for the common good,” he said.
The Institute’s 40th anniversary celebrations are web-streamed on the IOP website: http://ksgaccman.harvard.edu/iop/events_forum_listview.asp.
Photo: Michael Casey, Institute of Politics