Former Colombian President Santos to Deliver 2019 Harvard Kennedy School Graduation Address

Colombian President at the IOP
Former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, pictured here at a 2018 Institute of Politics event, will deliver this year's Harvard Kennedy School graduation address.

Former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will deliver the Harvard Kennedy School’s 2019 graduation address, Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf announced Tuesday.

Santos was the President of Colombia from 2010 to 2018. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for his efforts to end the civil war between Colombia’s government and FARC, a guerilla army. Santos negotiated a peace deal with FARC that was approved by Colombia’s Congress, but was narrowly rejected in an October 2016 referendum. Santos’s term also saw a decline in unemployment, poverty, and Colombia’s murder rate.

“President Santos is a distinguished public servant who has made an important positive difference in the lives of millions of Colombians,” Elmendorf said in a press release. “We are honored to welcome him back to the Kennedy School, from which he received a Mid-Career Master’s in Public Administration degree in 1981.”

Before his election to the Colombian presidency, Santos served as the country’s Minister of National Defense, Minister of Finance and Public Credit, and Minister of Foreign Trade.


Prior to earning his master’s degree at the Kennedy School, Santos studied at the Admiral Padilla Naval Cadet School in Cartagena and served in the Colombian Navy. Santos attended the University of Kansas and the London School of Economics after leaving the Navy.

Santos is currently serving as the Kennedy School’s fourth Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellow — a title previously held by prominent world leaders including former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and former Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon. His fellowship began in fall 2018 and continues through the spring 2019 term. As an Angelopoulos Fellow, Santos researches, studies, and teaches about issues he tackled during his term as president like human rights and peace.

In 1988, Santos was named a Nieman Fellow for his work as a journalist for the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.

Santos’s graduation address will take place at the Kennedy School at 2 p.m. on May 29, preceding University-wide commencement exercises the following day.

— Staff writer Jania J. Tumey can be reached at


Recommended Articles