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Newly Appointed Harvard IOP Director Setti Warren Wants to Teach Students to ‘Lead Politically’

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Harvard Institute of Politics Director Setti D. Warren, who is entering his first full semester in the role, said in an interview on Friday that he aims to bolster the political training undergraduates receive from the IOP during his term.

Warren, a former politician who served as mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, said he remains “100 percent dedicated” to the original intent of the IOP — to inspire undergraduates to engage with public service and politics — but said the current “crisis of confidence” in American institutions has turned his focus to preparing students to become political leaders.

“What’s really important to me is that we get our students ready to lead politically in this really challenging polarizing environment,” Warren said during the interview, his first with The Crimson as IOP director.

“If we want to get our young people ready to lead they have to be able to have dialogue and understand perspectives. And then lead all people,” he added.

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Throughout this year, Warren said, the IOP will focus on three points that will help mold students into better political leaders: understanding those with different backgrounds, fostering the ability to agree to disagree, and getting students outside of the Harvard bubble.

“As our students look at being in public life — being possibly elected officials — these are skill sets that they have to work on,” Warren said. “I know because I ran for office and I was in office.”

With programming already underway for the semester, the IOP has begun building on Warren’s ambitions. The IOP held a JFK Jr. Forum earlier this month on a “Disagree Better” campaign and is planning student trips to New Hampshire and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

This semester also marks the IOP’s first with Morgan S. Brown ’06 as executive director. Brown, who was appointed to the role this August, is returning to the IOP for the first time since his student days at the College.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful place to be and I’m just really honored to be back and working with everyone here to keep that going,” Brown said.

Brown said while “the day-to-day issues have certainly changed” since his time at the College, the IOP still fosters meaningful and relevant conversations among the student body.

“I’ve changed — more gray hair than I did the first time I came through — but I think the energy in the hallways, the things that really attracted me to the IOP as an undergrad, those are really consistent and stayed the same,” Brown said.

During the interview, Warren also discussed the IOP’s planned approach to the 2024 elections, emphasizing the importance of bringing America’s political diversity to Harvard, which is ideologically to the left of the broader electorate.

“This is the United States of America in 2024. There are people that have many different views about the election. What happened in 2020? What happened in 2016? What should happen moving forward?” Warren said.

“We have to make sure that we represent politics in America in 2024,” he added.

—Staff writer Thomas J. Mete can be reached at thomas.mete@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @thomasjmete.

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