As I am sitting here in the Harvard Kennedy School Forum looking at the new banners hanging around me announcing “You are HKS… You belong… We are all Harvard,” the first thought that runs through my head is, “I am not HKS… I do not belong here… We are not all Harvard.” I knew that coming to Cambridge, MA and Harvard would be a step outside my comfort zone, but I had no idea how uncomfortable it would make me. After nearly a year at HKS, I am still struggling with the feeling that maybe I don’t belong here. If the banner is correct, then why do I feel the way I do? Aren’t we all Harvard?
Am I HKS? I am a Christian-white-straight-cisgender male. I am a conservative, a Republican, and I voted for the President of the United States of America, Donald John Trump. I was born in the United States and I am proud of my privilege. I am proud because it is an earned privilege. I’ve flipped burgers for minimum wage and I worked my way through college. I earned my spot at the Kennedy school just like everyone else. I am proud to be an American. I believe in smaller government, fiscal responsibility, the sanctity of the Constitution and the rule of law. I believe in strong borders and national security. I support responsible immigration. I don’t think there is anything wrong with anyone who doesn’t look or think like me. I don’t impose my beliefs on anyone else, but Harvard thinks I am the problem. I know this because it’s been said to me and about me. I’ve been told that my beliefs do not align with the values that are held so dearly at the Kennedy School.
Do I belong here? This fact was painfully burned in my memory on November 9th, 2016 as I sat in this same Forum and watched my fellow students sing “Amazing Grace” as if they were at a funeral service. I’ve been reminded that I don’t belong numerous times since the election. I’ve tried to keep an open mind and attended the town halls and Forum sessions related to the election or the president’s executive order. I don’t feel that I belong in a place where a professor stands in class and professes loudly that the “election of Donald Trump was the worst thing that happened in their lives, even worse than 9-11.” I’m sorry but there are 2,996 families who may feel differently and would give anything to have their loved ones back.
This semester I have not had a SINGLE class session where the professor did not make some reference to President Trump, and none of them have been positive. One professor refused to say the president’s name, referring to him as the “man who lives in the White House.” I am disappointed in the Kennedy School. Its namesake would be ashamed to know the little regard we hold for the Office of the President and the institutions of our government. Is the Kennedy School training future public servants to work towards the public good or reinforcing the echo chamber of liberal thought: “We are right and anyone who disagrees with us is a racist, sexist, xenophobe”?
There are 63 million Americans that disagree with you. I’m tired of hearing that “Hillary won the popular vote.” No one “won” the popular vote. Bill Clinton also didn’t win the popular vote, but I don’t remember any “Not My President” signs in 1993. Unless you’re relinquishing your citizenship and moving to Canada, he is your president whether you like it or not. It’s time to move on! True governance is reaching across the aisle and finding compromise for the greatest good for the greatest number of people while doing the least harm to the least number of people. There may not be perfect solutions to our nation’s problems, but we won’t be able to find good solutions if we’re too busy protesting, resisting, and disrupting only because we disagree with someone else’s ideas.
Am I Harvard? Sometimes I feel that I am not Harvard. I have a heart and I care about making the world a better place. I just have different opinions on how it should be done and by whom, or the scope of global warming. Sometimes I feel that Harvard doesn’t speak for me or represent my values. What I hear is that I am the problem. It’s my fault that Donald Trump is president. I’m the reason that millions of women marched in protest. HKS loves to speak of its diversity and inclusion, trumpeting it at every opportunity. Does this diversity and inclusion extend to those like me who constantly are made to question their thoughts, identity and beliefs? I’ve never once said there is anything wrong with being a liberal or a Democrat or someone who holds views different than my own. I won’t even say those views are wrong or incorrect. I try to be open minded and consider and respect all persons and views, even those that are opposite mine. So why can’t you do the same for me? Why do I have to censor my comments in class to avoid your sighs and eye rolls. Why should I fear reprisals from professors for my political views? Why do you treat me like I am the enemy? After all, aren’t we all human beings and fellow Americans? Aren’t we all HKS?