In the grand tradition of Broadway and Hollywood, the Kennedy School of Government brought Harvard a bit of the old sparkle and a splash of the spot light this year. Using the glamorous Institute of Politics (IOP) Forum, a three-story atrium smack in the middle of the K-School structure, as his stage, Nicholas Mitropoulos, assistant director of the IOP, orchestrated a gala revue of presidential candidates, prominent journalists, and other luminaries. After 105 presentations and an attendance record which would put some major league baseball teams to shame, Mitropoulos can lean back and reflect, "I think we were pretty successful, but don't believe that we're giving up on getting Carter and Reagan. We'll be after them in the fall."
The Forum has put the K-School in the headlines and on the map. President Carter took such a shellacking from some of his competitors, who criticized his affection for the White House rose garden from behind the Forum's simple wooden podium, that presidential press secretary Jody Powell complained in March, "There seems to be a pattern developing that whenever any candidate for the presidency of either party experiences a major defeat, he responds by going to Harvard and attacking the President."
February's Los Angeles Times-Institute of Politics Conference on the press and the primaries drew well-known journalists and politicos who entertained large audiences over three days with their acerbic exchanges and insightful observations. Also early in the year, Bob Hope and Tony Randall shared the Forum spotlight. But since September, Mitropoulos has been packing them in not only for the big names, but also for panels on the role Blacks and Hispanics play in national politics, feminist speakers, and intense debates between Harvard professors.
Jonathan Moore, director of the IOP says the excitement in the Forum helps the Institute fulfill its mission of serving as a link between the ivory tower and the smoke-filled political backroom and main street. Others at the K-School agree; no one has anything but praise for Mitropoulos's and Moore's efforts. "The relationship between the school and the Forum has been a healthy one," says Ira Jackson '70, associate dean of the K-School, adding that, "The activities that go on there provoke intellectual curiosity and broadly disseminate information. The Forum also provides a psychological bond for all people who work in this place."
Although the Forum has clearly dominated the IOP this year, Moore points out that his organization has not cut back on the opportunities it provides for undergraduate students, on its special workshops for professionals, or on its faculty research endeavors. "We've been tempted to limit our-selves and concentrate more on one or another area, but we like the variety and we seem to be keeping up," he says. One new project which draws from all the Institue's resources is the planning of a research center to study the relationship between government and the media. Plans for this project are far from complete, but Moore says he and his associates are working quickly to increase the IOP's involvement in the various media. Examples of this activity include the television series, "The Advocates," co-produced with WGBH of Boston, and the books and reports that often result from IOP studies. Moore also intends to step up direct aid to the journalistic cause through the IOP's series of seminars on specific topics for journalists. "The media are growing too fast," says Moore. "They didn't ask for it and they can't handle it. We think we can help."