A message from Dean Douglas Elmendorf

Hello everyone,

I’m delighted to welcome the HKS community to a new semester of teaching, learning, and work.

Poet Amanda Gorman recently offered us all a poem to, in her words, “celebrate the new year and honor the hurt and the humanity of the last one.” Many of you will remember her poem for President Biden’s inauguration; some will remember also her poem for Malala Yousafzai’s receiving our Center for Public Leadership’s Gleitsman Activist Award.

I encourage you to listen (or read) her new poem in full, because a short excerpt cannot do it justice. But I am especially moved by this stanza:

This hope is our door, our portal.
Even if we never get back to normal,
Someday we can venture beyond it,
To leave the known and take the first steps.
So let us not return to what was normal,
But reach toward what is next.

We at Harvard Kennedy School are drawn together by the hope that our hard work and commitment to the common good can help public leaders and others “not return to what was normal, but reach toward what is next”—toward better communities, better nations, and a better world. This hope drives the activities of our students, staff, faculty, and fellows; it also animates our alumni, of whom you can always see a few inspiring examples in the HKS Magazine.

Let us begin the spring semester with this hope—this conviction, really—at the front of our minds. The learning and working we will do together this semester can make an important difference in the lives of others, and that is both a wonderful opportunity and a vital responsibility.


Although Massachusetts appears to be past the worst of the Omicron surge (for example, see the latest wastewater data), counts of cases and hospitalizations remain high, and even a so-called “mild” case of COVID can be serious. I know that many of you are continuing to deal with illness of yourselves or family members, caregiving challenges, loved ones who are immunocompromised or too young to be vaccinated, and other worries.

Therefore, as we gather again on campus, we should all take actions to keep ourselves and our community as healthy as possible. Please get your COVID booster as soon as possible (if you have not yet done so), wear a high-quality surgical- or cup-style mask, keep up your Color testing schedule, follow Harvard’s updated guidance regarding isolation and quarantine, and stay home if you are sick. In addition, please read HKS’s messages with COVID updates and review our policies on the HKS website. These actions can help to protect us all as we enjoy time together in person.

We continue to encourage managers to be as flexible as possible in the work locations of staff and fellows during the first two weeks of the semester, so that our on-campus activities focus on the core of our teaching and learning mission.

A Look Ahead: Spring 2022 Dean’s Discussions

Each semester, Sarah Wald and I present a series of interactive discussions led by faculty experts on topics of current importance. These discussions are part of HKS’s efforts to help make better communities, better nations, and a better world. This spring’s discussions will address Democracy, Dialogue, and Division. Please join our experts for discussions (locations to be determined) about:

  • Polarization and Voting: March 7, 4:15-5:30 pm; Matt Baum, Alex Keyssar, Ben Schneer, and Latanya Sweeney
  • Shoring Up Democratic Institutions Around the Globe: April 21, 4:15-5:30 pm; Erica Chenoweth, Tarek Masoud, Pippa Norris, and Kathryn Sikkink
  • Difficult Conversations: From Classrooms to Congress: May 11, 4:15-5:30 pm; Arthur Brooks, Cornell Brooks, Archon Fung, and Julia Minson

With my best wishes for a healthy and fruitful semester,