Political and Military Experts Talk Future of Leadership at IOP Forum


The Harvard Institute of Politics hosted a panel of political, business, and military experts on Tuesday to discuss the need for a new generation of young leaders in America.

Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ’78 moderated the panel, which featured Harvard Business School Senior Fellow William W. “Bill” George, Harvard Kennedy School professor of public service David R. Gergen, and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Shoshana Chatfield.

During the event, George emphasized the importance of character in leadership.

“We need a real, authentic [leader] who lead with a moral compass,” George said.


“I can give you some examples of very, very wealthy, well-known business leaders right now who are leading without a moral compass and we see the harm they’re doing,” George said.

Gergen suggested current political leaders are falling short as well.

“Accountability means get beyond the empty promises and deliver,” he said. “We way overpromise, and now we’re under-delivering.”

The panelists recalled the country’s post-war generation of politicians as models of leadership by service, pointing to former U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Class of 1904, and John F. Kennedy ’40 as examples.

Gergen added that current leaders — and recent presidents in particular — are simply too old.

“Both of them ought to step back,” Gergen said, referring to President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. “Coming into the White House at the age of 81 or 82 or 83 is just not good.”

“You have to be able to adapt, you have to be able to think clearly, and, by the way, you’re going to be the person with the finger on the button,” Gergen said.

George said it is time for the older generations to step aside and assume a mentorship role

“Our job is to mentor and teach and coach and encourage the next generations coming up,” he said.

Gergen added he hopes the next generation will "restore the idealism of the country," citing young leaders including climate activist Greta Thunberg, education activist Malala Yousafzai, and the March For Our Lives founders.

“To get a generation that’s demanding change is really helpful,” he said. “That goes back to the culture of creating the leader we deserve.”