We strengthen public leadership by training principled and effective public leaders.


Former President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos MC/MPA 1981 won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end the 52-year civil war between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Santos said that Ronald Heifetz, King Hussein Bin Talal Senior Lecturer in Public Leadership, once gave him “a wise piece of advice: ‘Whenever you feel discouraged, tired, pessimistic, talk with the victims. They will give you the push and strength to keep you going.’”


Ellen Johnson Sirleaf  MPA 1971 was the first democratically elected female head of state in Africa, serving as president of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. Sirleaf was one of the winners of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, receiving the award for her efforts to build peace in Liberia, promote economic and social development, and advance rights for women.

“By choosing the right values and living up to them consistently, citizens and leaders can be much more effective at solving public problems and making people’s lives better.”

Douglas Elmendorf, Dean and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy

Nurturing the Next Generation

David Gergen, public service professor of public leadership, political commentator, former presidential advisor, and best-selling author, works closely with a rising generation of public leaders. “It is important for young leaders, or aspiring leaders, to have role models, someone that they can look up to, and it helps to formulate their own ideas of how they can achieve great things,” Gergen said.

Through programs, fellowships, and events, HKS brings active-duty military members and veterans to campus.

A Forum for Debate

The John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics is Harvard’s premier arena for political speech and debate, and it regularly hosts world leaders and prominent public figures. All speakers must agree to take unfiltered audience questions as part of their talks.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students spoke about the March for Our Lives movement at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum in 2018.

Student Leaders

Every year, about 1,000 students from about 90 countries and territories learn to apply practical skills and hone the values needed to solve public problems through our master’s and doctoral degree programs. Our students are active both in class and outside of class, where they participate in more than 80 student-run organizations, 12 student publications, nine student-led policy conferences, and the Kennedy School Student Government.

Banner photo: Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon MC/MPA 1984, Malala Yousafzai, and former U.N. General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić MPA/ID 2003 at the United Nations in 2013. Yousafzai received the Kennedy School’s Gleitsman Activist Award in 2018.

Photos by Tom Fitzsimmons, Martha Stewart

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