OVER THE PAST FEW MONTHS, I have thought and written about the perils and promise in the public sphere now. The perils are complex and abundant. They include the many problems stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, threats to democracy and human rights, racism and other forms of injustice, obstacles to inclusive economic growth, the climate crisis, the challenge of achieving effective governance, and more.
At the same time, I see great promise. Many people have a renewed understanding of how connected we are to each other and how good governance enables us to work together effectively—and I know how much principled and effective public policy and leadership can achieve. I have seen examples of this good work firsthand in more than 20 years working on economic policy in Washington. And I have seen it for the past five years at Harvard Kennedy School in our teaching, research, and outreach. I know that we are seizing opportunities to make a difference when and where it is most needed.
In this issue of Harvard Kennedy School Magazine, you can read about faculty members and alumni who are meeting head-on the biggest public challenges we face. Several of our faculty experts write about what they see as the most pressing issues for the Biden-Harris administration in a wide range of policy areas. You can also read about how our faculty members are rethinking ways to work in a post–COVID-19 world. In addition, we look at sustainability through a profile of Professor Bill Clark, who is a pioneer and long-standing leading voice in sustainability science. Paired with that profile is the story of alumna Jane von Rabenau MPA/ID 2019, whose organization tackles environmental pollution caused by plastic waste. We also feature alumnus Alister Martin MPP/MD 2015, who addresses public policy problems, from civic participation to the opioid epidemic, alongside his work as an emergency physician.
The promise for the future of the public sphere can be seen in the work of the HKS community, as the stories in this issue of the magazine show. I hope that 2021 fulfills some of that promise for us all—and that you find ways to continue contributing to the world around you in your own work and life.
Dean Doug Elmendorf
Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy
Top image: Dean Doug Elmendorf hosted a virtual debrief with Harvard Kennedy School faculty members after the U.S. presidential election in November. Top: Nancy Gibbs, Arthur Brooks. Middle: Cornell William Brooks, Pippa Norris, Doug Elmendorf. Bottom: David Gergen, Archon Fung.