Former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach has been named the director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. "The country faces unique circumstances and it’s never been more important to develop a new generation of leadership," Leach says.
Leach had been teaching at Princeton, his alma mater, and took a leave of absence to take the new post, which is part of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Leach says one of his goals is to encourage young people to be more involved in citizenship activities — especially voting.
"I have been joking with people that I think it’s not good enough to vote once and I don’t mean by that the Chicago model, but I mean that if one doesn’t participate in the primary process, one leaves the choice of candidates and the direction of parties up to others," Leach says.
Leach contends mass participation by young people would change the campaign dialogue. "If you take the State of Iowa, for example, where we have a caucus process which means smaller participation, if every college student and every eligible high school student who is 18 were to participate the views of young people would have to be taken dramatically into consideration," Leach says. "And it would be a great step towards engaging on a regular basis a new generation of enthusiastic participants in the political process."
Leach notes, however, the "great irony" that many of the workers inside political campaigns are young, but their candidates haven’t yet been able to connect with the majority of the youth in the country.
"I’m particularly hopeful this year that we’re going to get a big turn-out of youth in the caucuses and primaries," Leach says. "This is one of my orientations to try to energize young people into the responsibilities of governance."
Leach, a Republican, represented Iowa in congress for 30 years before losing his reelection bid in 2006. Leach, who holds degrees from Princeton, Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Economics, stepped into the Harvard job for this academic year as the previous director — former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen — left to run for New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate seat.