Harvard Professor Touts Optimism In Presidential Race

This story was written by Nini S. Moorhead, Harvard Crimson
Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth M. Kanter told an audience at the Institute of Politics on Monday night that successful presidential campaigns must be based on optimism, not fear-mongering.

Kanter was the guest of honor at a panel discussion titled "American Principles and 2008 Presidential Politics."

Kanter, whose book "America the Principled: Six Opportunities for Becoming a Can-Do Nation Once Again" was published in October, said the country is in "a time of gloom."

Kanter faulted many of the current presidential candidates for apocalyptic thinking and playing upon fears about national security.

"You present the facts, but you [should] also say that there could be a better world out there," she said.

Lecturer Elaine Kamarck, who moderated, praised Kanter's book as a fresh look at America and a departure from the partisan tone of today's politics. The book outlines six steps the country needs to take in order to return to its core values of equality and opportunity, Kamarck said.

But other panelists questioned whether optimism is likely to promote change.

David Gergen, the director of the Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership, said Al Gore has successfully used the threat of impending disaster to publicize the cause of tackling global warming.

"You have to create a burning platform and the sense that we are going to sink," Gergen said.

Turning toward the coming presidential election, the panel took on issues ranging from the "Mike Huckabee phenomenon"-the presidential hopeful's surprising success in Iowa-to the role of religion in the vote.

As the forum wound down, IOP Director James A. Leach paid tribute to outgoing IOP Forum Director Bill H. White. Sitting alongside his wife and two young children, White was toasted by colleagues near and far. Some "FOB," or Friends of Bill, as one speaker labeled them, phoned in and were broadcast over a loudspeaker.

White will join Mass. Governor Deval L. Patrick's administration after campaigning in Iowa on behalf of Hillary R. Clinton.
© 2007 Harvard Crimson via U-WIRE