A message to the community from Douglas W. Elmendorf, Dean of Harvard Kennedy School

On Thursday President Trump made a crude and derogatory comment about African nations (and maybe Haiti as well), according to multiple sources as reported in a number of news outlets.  The term that was reportedly used by the president should not be used by any national leader to describe any other nation.  We should all expect better from our public leaders, and I certainly expect better from the president of my country.  Moreover, by focusing his comment on those particular countries, the president continued his pattern of making negative comments about people of color.  Racism should be unacceptable to everyone and should have no place in this country or any other.

As I have said on many occasions, a core value for public leaders should be respecting the worth of each person regardless of his or her national origin, race, or other demographic characteristics.  Such respect should be a core value as well for all of us at the Kennedy School—as current and aspiring public leaders, and simply as citizens of countries who should hold ourselves to the standards to which we hold our leaders.  Living up to this value is not always easy, and we at the Kennedy School need to continue working hard together to become a more inclusive community.  We need to appreciate all of our students, staff, and faculty—from whatever countries and backgrounds they come—for what they are contributing to our lives together now and for what they will contribute to their countries and our shared world in the future.

While I was drafting this message, a friend of the Kennedy School sent me remarks he had just made to his organization.  He finished by quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday is recognized by a national holiday on Monday: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  As we strive to live up to our values, let all of us not be silent about the challenges we see around us.


Douglas Elmendorf
Dean and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy
Harvard Kennedy School