Guest Blog: Institute of Politics

Sarah Esty, senior, pfoho, social studies
former vice president, current student advisory committee member at large.

One morning last spring, my alarm went off at 7:45AM. Happily, I wasn’t getting up for class (I don’t do morning classes – my earliest is normally at 11), and I also wasn’t madly finishing a paper due that afternoon. Instead, I was heading to a breakfast at the Institute of Politics with Michele Pierre-Louis, the former Prime Minister of Haiti. She was a visiting fellow for the week, in town to talk to us in a whirlwind of events from giving speeches in front of large audiences to having small personal conversations with small groups of students. I had heard from friends who had lunch with her earlier in the week (we joke that all IOP events seem to revolve around food) that she is fantastic, so I was very excited. She didn’t disappoint. Our hour-long breakfast rans twenty minutes over because we were all so interested in hearing first hand about the situation on the ground there, and about the major issues Haiti has been facing since long before the earthquake (I was shocked to find out that only 11% of schools in Haiti are public…talk about an education crisis). The most exciting part of the talk was finding out that she was going to be back in the fall for the whole semester as a residential fellow, leading weekly discussions and bringing in interesting guests to talk to us.

            One of the best parts of Harvard is that events like this are an everyday occurrence at the Institute of Politics. The IOP brings in heads of state, political figures, journalists, and experts from all over the world and the political spectrum for everything from major speeches to intimate discussions – it’s a normal day at the IOP when you get to hear Felipe Calderón or Michael Steele speak, or have dinner with David Plouffe. I’m still sad I wasn’t at Harvard yet when Stephen Colbert came in 2007. And the IOP isn’t just a place where you can go to hear cool people to talk or get a political internship (though I had a fantastic experience at the one the IOP helped me get with the Political Department of the DCCC last summer); it is also a home for students interested in politics and public service. A few days later, a group of us cooked brunch for the whole IOP, and bonded over politics, fruit salad, and chocolate French toast (I wasn’t kidding about the food thing). The IOP is a truly unique feature of Harvard, and is an amazing resource and community for everyone with an interest in politics – from the kid who can name all the Vice Presidents and Secretaries of State in reverse order (yes, one of my friends can do this) to someone who knows almost nothing about politics but wants to find out more.

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