Skip to main content

Harvard Kennedy School Campus Transformation Ribbon Cutting

Wexner Building, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, Mass.

As delivered.

Thank you. That means so much to me. And it means so much to me to be here today with all of you to celebrate this extraordinary milestone for the university and for the Kennedy School.

At a time when reasoned public policy has never mattered more, and when it has perhaps never faced such profound challenges, we are here to mark a new era for a school that champions reasoned debate and informed governing. The Harvard Kennedy School will continue to advance this important mission in this new and glorious space—a space that will enable enhanced learning, enhanced community and enhanced vigorous and rigorous debate of the many issues that face us.  This day also affirms a past and a future. And the future that it highlights includes enduring commitments to scholarship, leadership and service that have characterized this school since its founding in the 1930s as the Graduate School of Public Administration.

As we cut the ribbon to open officially this new space, I want to invoke three quotations from the leader whose name now graces this school and whose commitment to public service has inspired so many: President John F. Kennedy.

He once remarked, “Things don’t happen. Things are made to happen.”  This is true in politics.  It is true in government.  It is also true in universities.  Let us remember today that this building did not just happen.  A lot of people made it happen: generous donors, Dean David Elwood, current dean Doug Elmendorf, and I have to mention John Haigh, sitting right here in front of me. I want to thank all of them for bringing us to this moment. 

Kennedy also wrote, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”  That is our commitment here: to generate the leaders the world so desperately needs through the education that takes place here at the Harvard Kennedy School. And that is the fundamental purpose of this new space we open today. That is our work as we go forward.

And a third quotation from JFK: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”  As we thank all of those who made this building possible, let us remember that the real thanks lie ahead—in the work that we do here, in the ideas we create, in the better world we enable through the realization of the ideals of public service and the common good within these walls. Thank you very much.