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Forty-eight sessions, more than 100 speakers, and nearly 700 attendees.
Big ideas, audacious thinking, and unbridled optimism.
This is IDEASpHERE—the launch of the Campaign for Harvard Kennedy School(HKS). With a goal of $500 million, the campaign will allow HKS to provide a new level of leadership and innovation while bringing meaningful and positive change to the world. To date, HKS has raised $336 million toward its goal.
Starting yesterday and continuing today, IDEASpHERE has drawn together heads of state and civil servants, social entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders, businessmen and women, scholars and practitioners, alumni and friends, and many others to celebrate the campaign launch and to explore how we can best address the many challenges that confront our world.
The first event, in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, featured former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón MC/MPA 2000, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf MC/MPA 1971, and two student leaders, Jieun Baek MPP 2014 and Amandla Ooko-Ombaka MPA/ID 2016. They discussed the challenges and opportunities of public leadership.
“You must accept that there will be obstacles,” said Sirleaf. “But the strength of all your experiences will keep you focused.”
“We’re human,” said Calderón , “with a lot of defects, like anyone else. “But you must believe in something. And once you pick a motive, you must fight for it with all your heart.”
Later, Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard University and Lincoln Professor of History, introduced David T. Ellwood, dean of the Kennedy School and Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy.
Recalling John F. Kennedy’s famous call to service, which also happens to be the motto of HKS, Faust said that, “to ‘ask what you can do’ is a deceptively simple question. It calls us up—not to join any grand plan, but to challenge and lead ourselves from within. This is what I believe the Kennedy School does, and is why it has produced such an extraordinary number of leaders, who have gone on to apply what they have learned here at every level of government and business and public service around the globe.”
In his remarks, Ellwood emphasized idealism and determination as the Kennedy School’s defining characteristics. “It is a place of ambition and wisdom, innovation and evaluation, hope and humility,” he said.
“We believe we have the opportunity and responsibility to lead in government, in business, in civil society, in academia—and to focus on something larger than ourselves. We believe we can make a difference right now. Audacious? Naïve? Foolhardy? It might be someplace else, but not here,” he said.
Noting the importance of analytical rigor, Ellwood said, “At the Kennedy School, dreams are honed by tough analysis, tested against practical realities, and fortified with lessons of leadership.”
Ellwood acknowledged that the world faces enormous problems, but with characteristic optimism, declared, “Harvard Kennedy School must and will answer the increasingly urgent call for exceptional public leadership that this moment in history demands.”
The Campaign for Harvard Kennedy School is raising funds to bring extraordinary students from across the country and around the world to Cambridge regardless of cost. Additional campaign priorities include transforming teaching and learning, generating ideas to solve the world’s most pressing public problems, supporting faculty, and creating new spaces and renovating existing ones to support the School’s research, teaching, and engagement with the world.
“Together,” said Ellwood, “we can take on the greatest challenges of today and the days ahead: to make democracy work, to generate shared, sustainable prosperity, and to harness the forces reshaping our world.”
He noted, “Saving the world is not for the content or the cautious. And the Kennedy School is a community of risk takers who believe in tomorrow and are willing to work hard to make it real.”