“IF YOU WANT REAL CHANGE that will directly impact communities and societies—you need to get into politics.” That was the simple message Moldovan President Maia Sandu MC/MPA 2010 wanted to pass on to the Harvard Kennedy School graduating class of 2022.

Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, finds itself on the precarious edge of the war in Ukraine. In the months following the Russian invasion, more than half a million Ukrainian refugees streamed into the country. And Russian military leaders have spoken of connecting a Russian-speaking part of Moldova, known as Transnistria, to Russia via a land bridge across southern Ukraine. But Sandu’s focus was less on her country’s difficulties than on the need for good people everywhere to get involved.

“I never intended to become a politician,” she said, describing her own journey as a reformer. “I didn’t know how to do it. I realize that here at Harvard Kennedy School and in other good places, many well-educated, effective managers and sectoral leaders say they prefer to keep their distance from politics. People do not want to mess up with politics. I thought exactly the same. Up to a point. Up until I decided that I do not want to live in a country led by corrupt people.”

She concluded: “If you want to live in a better world, and I am sure you do, I urge you to become involved in shaping it—on behalf of your own people and for the future generations!”

Headshot of Billy Taylor

“Ukraine just wants to be able to make decisions that normal sovereign countries get to make. And that’s what the United States is trying to support.”

Bill Taylor, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, at an IOP Forum in February
Headshot of Juan Manuel Santos

“All the countries south of the Rio Grande had great expectations. … But because of internal political problems ... [this] administration has done almost nothing.”

Juan Manuel Santos MC/MPA 1981, former Colombian president, at an IOP Forum in February
Headshot of Donna Brazile

“This journey took a struggle, this struggle took a movement, and this movement took not only faith, but leaders.”

Donna Brazile on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court appointment, at an IOP Forum in March
Headshot of Marcia McNutt

“Science is important to society and democracy because science is the best way that mankind has yet delivered to get us out of the zero-sum problem.”

Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, giving the Science in Democracy Lecture in March
Headshot of Tim Scott

“Conflict is lucrative—doesn’t matter if you’re on the right or the left. The more polarization there is in the nation, the more you tune in.”

U.S. State Senator Tim Scott (R–South Carolina) at an IOP Forum in April
Headshot of Jamie Raskin

“In democracy, healing comes from truth.”

Congressman Jamie Raskin (D–Maryland) at an IOP Forum in April

Banner photograph by Jessica Scranton; Headshots by Martha Stewart and Christopher Michel