A Look Back At The Fall 2018 Semester



Dear Friend,

As I conclude my first full semester as the Director of the Institute of Politics I write with gratitude and excitement for the opportunity to be here at such an important time of our civic life. I am grateful for the warm welcome that has been extended to me and pleased with our Fall semester programming. I look forward to the year ahead and remain grateful for the counsel and perspective shared with me. In this final newsletter of the year, we recall some highlights of the past semester.

This summer, the IOP hosted a Summer Celebration with incoming Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow. This was his first public appearance after assuming office and he joined us to honor our public service interns and graduates in the DC area.

Watch the video from our Summer Celebration with President Bacow.

We welcomed an extraordinary class of Resident Fellows this Fall, as well as many accomplished Visiting Fellows -- including three former mayors from major American cities who led an innovative new Study Group, "Politics, Potholes, and Public Service" about local government and leadership. Our Resident Fellows hosted their own Study Groups with invited guests such as Sophia Bush, Ty Cobb, Admiral William McRaven, and many more.

Throughout the semester, our Director's Dinners hosted a number of prominent guests who shared their insights and experiences on politics and public service with students, faculty, and Harvard community members. We were pleased to share a table and conversation with Harvard Prof. Jill Lepore, Amy Walter and David Wasserman, Jonah Goldberg, Maggie Haberman, Jeff Roe, and many others.

The JFK Jr. Forum brought some of the most well-known thinkers, doers, and leaders from across the world right here to Cambridge, including Ban Ki-moon, Arne Duncan, Jill Abramson, John Kerry, Malala Yousafzai, and Bryan Stevenson. Watch them all here.

Resident Fellows in conversation with former Secretary of State John Kerry in the JFK Jr. Forum this semester.

The Harvard Public Opinion Project produced its National Youth Poll of Americans age 18-29. Released days before the 2018 midterms, it indicated the potential for record youth turnout. Based on the results, we now know those projections were correct and that young people made their voices heard in an historic way: voting into office the most diverse Congress in history.

In addition to Resident and Visiting Fellows, the IOP also was fortunate to have former Resident Fellow Dan Balz begin his tenure as a Senior Fellow. Dan has been a valued member of the IOP team, while maintaining his role as Chief Correspondent at the Washington Post.

2018 was a midterm election year and the IOP, as always, was right in the thick of it. The IOP conceived of and led the Harvard Votes Challenge, an unprecedented, university-wide effort to increase voter registration and participation. Every degree-granting college at the University was included, and you can learn more about the effort in a video we released on Election Day, summarizing the effort.

As if that all weren't enough, the IOP hosted two major conferences in 2018. The National Campaign Conference brought students from across America to Harvard to discuss ways to get involved in politics and public service and increase civic engagement on their respective campuses throughout the year. We also welcomed 63 Representatives-Elect to our biennial Bipartisan Program for Newly Elected Members of Congress. Since 1972, the IOP has hosted this program designed to forge bipartisan relationships and learn practical skills of lawmaking prior to members taking the oath of office.

The Fall semester has been a busy and eventful one. This mission of the IOP – to inspire Harvard students to public service and active citizenship – could not be more important.

As we conclude 2018, I am grateful for the students, Fellows, staff and friends of the IOP who commit themselves to advancing this mission. I am looking forward to 2019 and enhancing the student experience and deepening our effectiveness as a national leader for student civic participation.

All best wishes for the holiday season –


Mark D. Gearan ‘78
Director, Institute of Politics