Participating in the Kennedy School of Government’s (KSG) 17th annual Student Internship Fund auction, audience members—some clad in tuxedos—egged each other on with “oohs” and shouts as items appeared on the auction block.
KSG Dean Joseph S. Nye and a professional auctioneer ran the show, where prices ratcheted past several thousand dollars. In all, the event garnered almost $100,000 in stipends for students interested in public service work.
Politically-themed vacations fetched the biggest bids. A week at the Vermont retreat of Ira Jackson, Director of the Center for Business and Government, with Jackson serving pancakes every morning, brought in $3500. A week at former Ambassador to Austria Swanee Hunt’s Columbine Ranch, in Colorado, brought in $3100.
The pop-culture arm of politics performed well. A VIP tour of the set of NBC’s “The West Wing” went for $3500, and meals with George Stephanopolous, James Carville and Chris Matthews went for $450, 850 and 500, respectively.
Politicians offered their time as well.
Lunch with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Richard Myers and his staff commanded $600, a meal with Mario Cuomo was $550 and one with Senator John McCain (R-Az.), $750.
Most of the event’s profits came from the three-hour long silent auction, which included close to 200 items, as attendees enjoyed cocktails, fruit and sandwiches.
Highlights from the silent auction were autographed pieces of political memorabilia, including a vice presidential desk set and presidential pen from the Clinton White House, a Florida butterfly ballot from the 2000 Presidential election, signed by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and a signed picture of Al Gore ’69 and his wife, Tipper, sharing a kiss at the Democratic National Convention.
“Many of these items are one-of-a-kind—created specially for us with this event in mind. It’s great to be able to offer valuable goods in return, rather than just asking for donations,” said Auction Co-coordinator Wendolynn M. Montoya.
The auction was coordinated by co-chairs Montoya, a first-year student in the Masters’ of Public Policy program, and Daniel R. Wagner, a mid-career student, with the support of Harvard Faculty and students and KSG Deans Nye and Joseph McCarthy.
The auction is part of a year-long fundraising effort that garnered $100,000 last year for student intern stipends of up to $4,000 each. The Fund encourages students between the first and second years of their Masters degree program to take positions at public service organizations that don’t have funds to pay their salaries.
Hamila Khan, who received a grant to work for an international public policy publication last summer said, “I had secured my dream job, but couldn’t possibly afford to live in New York with no income.”