Panel Discusses Politics and Principles at Kennedy School Forum

December 11, 2007

Principles, politics and leadership were the themes Monday night at the Kennedy School ’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum. A trio of Harvard panelists analyzed the 2008 presidential campaign, discussing character and integrity as they relate to the candidates and the voters.

Rosabeth Moss Kantor, Ernest L. Arbuckle professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and author of “America the Principled: Opportunities for Becoming a Can-Do Nation Once Again,” critiqued what she termed the “bifurcation of [current American] political discourse,” and argued that the American public wants to hear more optimistic and hopeful discussion and ideas on the campaign trail.

“What unites us is stronger than what divides us, and if we look for what unites us we have a basis for dialogue about what divides us so we can move forward,” she stated.

Jim Leach, director of the Institute of Politics (IOP) and longtime former member of Congress (R-IA) echoed Kantor’s concern about negative political rhetoric, saying that it is the “responsibility of American civilization” to take the discussion in new directions, both at home and abroad.

“There was a day when relationships between countries were government to government,” Leach said. “Now we really have relationships between societies. Business relations are more consequential today. Cultural relations are more consequential. These are far more important in international relations than some government to government relationships.”

With less than a year to go before the American voters choose a new president, David Gergen, director of the Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership and former advisor to four American presidents, called the 2008 campaign “an unpredictable race,” saying that voters are simply flirting with potential favorites. “There is very little sense of commitment to any of the candidates,” he remarked.

The Forum was moderated by Elaine Kamarck, lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School and former policy advisor to Vice President Al Gore.

Photos by Jon Chase, Harvard News Office

Forum participants image

Moderator Elaine Kamarck, lecturer in public policy (L); Panelist Rosabeth Moss Kantor, professor of business administration, Harvard Business School (R)

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