Caroline Kennedy, Ken Duberstein Leave Institute of Politics Leadership


Caroline B. Kennedy ’80 and Kenneth M. Duberstein have stepped down from their posts at the helm of the Institute of Politics’ Senior Advisory Committee.

Kennedy spent the past six years serving as honorary chair of the highest leadership body at the IOP — founded in memory of her father, former United States president John F. Kennedy. Duberstein, who served in senior positions in former United States president Ronald Reagan’s administration, has chaired the 17-member committee since 2013, when he succeeded Caroline Kennedy in that role.

In a Feb. 13 resignation letter obtained by The Crimson and addressed to Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf, Kennedy broadly explained her decision to step down from the committee.

“Over five decades, it has worked closely with the Dean and the Director in a relationship of mutual respect and constructive collaboration,” she wrote. “Recent developments have convinced me that I can no longer play a constructive role at the IOP.”


In her letter, Kennedy did not elaborate on those “recent developments.” She could not be reached for comment.

An article published in The Washington Post Wednesday afternoon suggested that disputes about the committee’s influence within the IOP led Kennedy to step away from the institute, which she had been involved with since her undergraduate years.

Several people familiar with the situation told The Post that Kennedy and Elmendorf had a tense relationship and that she and other members of the committee felt Elmendorf tried to assert too much control over the IOP. Some anonymous Harvard affiliates alleged that the tension between Kennedy and Elmendorf in part derived from the committee’s unsolicited involvement in IOP management.

The IOP’s website states that the advisory committee “works closely with the Institute to fulfill its mission to inspire Harvard students to pursue pathways in politics and public service,” though no specific duties are listed.

IOP Director Mark D. Gearan did not respond to multiple requests for comment Wednesday evening.

Kennedy School spokesperson James F. Smith declined to comment on The Post’s specific allegations. In an emailed statement Smith provided to The Crimson Wednesday evening, Elmendorf recognized Kennedy’s contributions to the institute.

“Caroline Kennedy is a distinguished public leader with an exemplary record of service to her country,” he wrote. “I am extremely grateful for the extraordinary dedication and commitment she has shown to Harvard Kennedy School over many years.”

Duberstein, who also recently resigned, had worked with the IOP for the past two decades, sitting on panels as well as participating in its bipartisan orientation for newly elected U.S. Representatives. He did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.

Elmendorf commended Duberstein on his dedication to the institute.

“We greatly appreciate his absolute commitment to encouraging students to enter public life and for his tireless efforts to strengthen the IOP to support and inspire those students,” he wrote.

In her resignation letter, Kennedy reflected on her participation at the institute since her years at the College.

“When I enter HKS, I am reminded of my mother, my uncles and my brother, who all served on the SAC. I share their belief that inspiring the next generation of leaders to enter public service is the best way to honor my father's memory,” she wrote.

—Staff Writer Sixiao Yu contributed reporting.

—Staff Writer Ema R. Schumer can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @emaschumer.