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Massachusetts State Senator Eric P. Lesser ’07 will lead the Kennedy School’s “Hi! I’m Running for Office” program for the third time this spring.
The workshop series — developed by the Center for Public Leadership and the Institute of Politics — focuses on examining issues of youth political participation. It brings together graduate students from the Kennedy School and the Law School, as well as students from Harvard College.
Lesser said he continues to participate in the program because he believes in empowering “young people from backgrounds or from places that have historically not been represented” to run for office and govern.
“I think politics can often feel very distant, it can feel very intimidating for people, especially young people, especially whether it’s women or people of color or people from different backgrounds,” he said. “I think, often times there’s too much focus on the politics, there’s too much focus on the campaigns, and there’s too much focus on election day, and not enough focus on what comes after election day.”
In the past, the workshop series has featured guests like current Democratic presidential candidate Pete P. M. Buttigieg ’04 and CNN political analyst David Gergen. Lesser said this year, the list of guests includes figures like Jorge O. Elorza — the mayor of Providence, R.I. — and newly elected New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi.
“One thing that they really all have in common is that they’ve beaten the odds. They’ve brought something new to their office, and they’ve crashed the gate, so to speak,” Lesser said.
He also spoke about the impact the program has had on him personally.
“This is such a great motivator for me for my day job, you know. I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned so much from the students, I’ve learned so much from the guests, and I bring that back to my work,” Lesser said.
He added, “I think now, after the three years of doing it, I’ve learned so much about how to be effective, how to serve a community, how to move and idea and an issue forward, frankly, from learning from the other guests and from the students.”
Monica Y. Chang ’23, an undergraduate who said she is participating in the workshop series, wrote in a text message that the program has been “incredibly inspiring” so far.
“Although this was just my first session in the Running for Office Workshop Series, I can already tell it will be a fantastic experience,” Chang said.
“I was awed by the diversity of experience in the room — with students from the Kennedy School, Law School, College, and every walk of life. Hearing everyone’s unique story — what’s shaped their aspirations, what they care about, and where they come from — was incredibly inspiring.”
—Staff writer Sixiao Yu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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