By Nathan Finney
There was a very visual display of the military cohort in this year’s class on the first day back from Veteran’s Day. All shades of colors graced black and blue uniforms, drawing the eye of many at the Kennedy School. This display was organized by the Armed Forces Committee and was designed to show the pride of our military services following the holiday dedicated to their service to the nation.
The display may have also brought to the fore a comment that many have made over the last few months – “There are a LOT of students at HKS in the military”. I’ve even heard a comment to the effect of the “militarization” of the Kennedy School.
I had the opportunity to discuss this subject with Dean Ellwood in a recent interview with The Citizen. From his point of view, all those that come to the Kennedy School are dedicated to public service, and that includes military service members. Ellwood went on to say, “We have so much diversity in so many different ways [at the Kennedy School], you can get preoccupied with one or another of those for a while.” However, something that is important about the military members is that they “come here…deeply believ[ing] in something larger than themselves. After all, most military people are willing to lay down their life for something that involves principle. If you have ever been to the tragic memorial or funeral service of a member of the military: It’s all about service.”
Another point Ellwood made was one that you would hear from all the military members attending the Kennedy School: intellectual broadening. The military services send their officers to graduate schools across the nation to see the world outside their services. As Ellwood said, “It is critical for military folks to be here to be exposed to different points of view. And for people from countries around the world to be exposed to the military point of view.”
So while there may be some at the Kennedy School that disagree with the presence of so many military members, and some military service members that have a hard time connecting with their fellow students, it is vital that both sides connect and learn from each other in this rare opportunity.
As Ellwood put it, “The idea that we can have in the classroom people from Afghanistan, people from the Middle East and military veterans from Afghanistan and talking about what is the right strategy, what is going on there, whether it makes sense and so forth and where hard questions are asked on both sides. That is the magic of the Kennedy School.”