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With video clips of John F. Kennedy ’40 and speeches from political insiders, the Institute of Politics (IOP) inaugurated its first-ever Politics Day on Saturday to encourage first-years to get involved with the institute and public service.
Kicking off the all-day event, Director of the IOP Dan Glickman told the 50 first-years in the audience that they should be a “participant, not a spectator” in the world around them.
Showing a video of Kennedy speaking on the duty of educated Americans to take part in their government, he said Kennedy should serve as a role model for undergraduates.
Glickman noted that Kennedy became interested in politics at Harvard—and said he bet there were some other future politicians in the crowd.
Following Glickman’s address, attendees had the opportunity to meet members of Harvard political groups and participate in small discussions headed by politicos such as a former Kentucky congressman and Mitt Romney’s campaign manager.
The guests led discussions with students on topics ranging from the environment to student voice in contemporary politics.
Throughout the event, IOP leaders emphasized the importance of undergraduates to the organization’s success.
Glickman described the IOP as primarily a student organization, noting with a chuckle that his job was dependent on the approval of the IOP’s student committee.
He urged students to find an issue that inspires them, particularly at a time when students are not as involved in political activism.
President of the IOP’s Student Advisory Committee Peter P. Buttigieg ’04 said first-year participation was vital to the IOP’s success this year and in the future.
Aaron D. Chadbourne ’06, a member of the IOP, said students should take advantage of the opportunity the IOP provides to interact with politicians and journalists. The IOP also has a “Big Sib” program that connects first-years with older students in the organization, he said.
IOP member Mark C. Beatty ’06 said meeting the Chairman of the Republican National Committee spurred him to get involved with the institute soon after he arrived at Harvard.
Buttigieg said the IOP will try to use the upcoming presidential race to increase the participation of students in national politics. The IOP will host several speeches by presidential candidates throughout October and November, although the names have not been released yet.
Buttigieg said the IOP had already helped over 400 first-years to register to vote during Freshman Week.
Stephen E. Dewey ’07 and Jade F. Jurdi ’07, roommates who attended Politics Day, joked that even though their Wigglesworth common room is divided politically, they will both join the IOP because of its renowned reputation.
Buttigieg said he hopes Politics Day will build a tradition of welcoming first years during the opening weeks of the school year.
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