The Kennedy School of Government (KSG) will rename the ARCO Forum in honor of John F. Kennedy Jr., who was active at the school for years before his death in 1999.
“My nephew John would have been enormously honored to have the Forum in his name,” said Sen. Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy ’54-’56 (D-Mass.). “I know that for Caroline and his family and our family, this is the most important memorial to him the family could have imagined.”
Ted Kennedy and Caroline B. Kennedy Schlossberg ’80, John Jr.’s sister, were on hand when the rededication plans were announced yesterday by KSG Dean Joseph S. Nye and University President Lawrence H. Summers at the semiannual meeting of the Senior Advisory Committee of the Institute of Politics (IOP).
John Jr., who would have been 42 yesterday, served on that committee for 15 years, but his greatest love at the IOP was for speeches and discussions at the Forum, colleagues and family said.
“His interest in the work the Institute was doing grew over time largely through the Forum, because he so liked the exchange that inevitably takes place within the Forum between the audience and practitioners,” said Heather Campion, who worked closely with John Jr. as director of the Forum from 1990 to 1997.
Campion said Kennedy frequently called her with suggestions for speakers at the Forum, and helped arrange several events that featured his interest in politics and pop culture, such as speeches by Barbra Streisand and Rolling Stone publisher Jan Wenner.
When Streisand came to Harvard in 1995, Kennedy arranged for her to meet with members of the IOP’s Student Advisory Committee before her appearance at the Forum.
When he was founding George magazine, Campion said, he invited Harvard students to a discussion at Winthrop House on the relationship between pop culture and politics.
She added that many of those who came to the Forum, including Streisand and several women politicians, were featured in George soon after.
“He brought a lot of inspiration to the Forum, but was also inspired by it,” said Campion, who remains on the Senior Advisory Committee and is now an executive vice president at Citizens Bank.
“He cared very deeply about the young people who spent their time in the Institute of Politics and who were working to interest their fellow students in public policy and public service,” Ted Kennedy added.
John Jr. moderated discussions on wit and humor, arts and public service that came as part of the IOP’s annual tribute to his father, President John F. Kennedy ’40, for whom KSG was dedicated in 1978.
Campion said John Jr. made a point of including speakers who could discuss those issues from the perspective of both his father’s administration and today’s world.
“John was always focused on moving forward and looking forward,” she said.
Although John Jr. attended Brown—not Harvard like his father and two of his uncles—and chose to live in New York City, Kennedy Schlossberg said in a statement that he loved Cambridge and the IOP.
“I hope the Forum will always remain a place where young people can discuss and debate major issues facing our society and envision a life of public service,” she said.
The IOP will be funding renovations and technology upgrades to the Forum this summer, and the official rededication ceremony will be held next fall.
The Forum was originally named for ARCO, an energy and gas company that made contributions to the Kennedy School in 1976 but has since been purchased by Amoco.
IOP spokesperson Gordon Li said Harvard has cleared the name change with Amoco.
—Staff writer Elisabeth S. Theodore can be reached at email@example.com.