The Hart Center for Public Service
Fifty-five years ago, President John Kennedy challenged a new generation to "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” issuing a call to public service that stirred the nation. That call, for citizen involvement in meeting ever-changing challenges domestically and internationally, echoed throughout former Senator Gary Hart’s career. Gary Hart inspired so many to devote their talents and energy to making a positive difference in our country. From child hunger to children’s health, from helping inner-city students achieve the social-emotional and academic skills to achieve their goals to helping women and girls around the world achieve their own, and from involving citizens from all walks of life in community reintegration for returning veterans and their families to focusing on the impact of technology on blue collar workers, Hart alumni in both the public and private sectors have been making a difference on issues that matter for more than three decades.
As Gary Hart rose to the charge to "do for his country," we also rise to the same charge and continue to empower others to do the same. The Hart Center for Public Service is created to promote this fundamental and critical value of American citizenship, embodying the ideals and goals fundamental to Gary Hart’s lifetime work. The Center will facilitate both academic and practical dialog and action that renews citizen engagement in our society's most pressing issues, bringing together those who are already public service innovators with new generations of citizens equally impassioned to make a difference.
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— Founding Principles —
America’s Founders created a democratic republic. A democracy is based on equality and rights of citizenship. A republic, since ancient Athens, is based on popular sovereignty, civic virtue, a sense of the commonwealth, and resistance to corruption.
Popular sovereignty resides political power in the people themselves, and a structure of government they ordain, but requires their constant attention as to how their power is wielded.
Civic virtue, more commonly known as civic duty, requires participation in self-government. Voting is foundational. But intelligent voting requires being informed about the issues of the day which in turn requires a free press, public education, and individual commitments to listen and learn.
The commonwealth is all the things citizens in a republic hold in common and in trust for future generations. Highways, parks, clean water and air, schools, museums, and much more are parts of the commonwealth.
When narrow or special interests are placed above the common good, the corruption that follows can threaten the very life of the republic. Individual interests can be promoted only if the republic places common interests first. Only an engaged and active citizenry can make that happen.
The creation of this Center comes at a time in our history where little emphasis is placed on the duties of citizenship. We are in the midst of a profound struggle and on its outcome will rest the future of our nation. That is the reason the creation of the Center is now both timely and crucial.
Over 50 years ago, John F Kennedy issued a charge to give back to the country. Rarely since then have the American people people, especially young people, heard a challenge by leadership to devote a portion of their lives to improving our nation and to remain active all their lives in public activities. The Center will seek to restore this ideal in 21st century America.
— Goals and Framework —
We are in discussion with a leading Colorado academic institution to partner on this initiative. There will be both academic and hands-on training components to the Center. The academic component will include study and discussion of the reasons why our Founders spoke and wrote in the language of the republic and sought to create an American Republic on a scope and scale never before seen. For those interested in studying the 2500-year-old concepts of republican thought throughout history, including the influences on our Founders, the academic coursework portion of the Center will include readings from and discussion of this ideal. The central theme to be explored is why a republic, including the American Republic, requires civic duty and citizen participation to maintain that ideal.
Close study will be made of current negative challenges, including barriers to voting, outlets that discourage citizen participation and undermine confidence in our government, and the forces that promote special interest lobbying rather than the commonwealth.
Central to the aspirations of our Founders was citizen involvement in public life. The hands-on training component of the Center will provide participants with channels for direct involvement in public service and social entrepreneurship, with the goal of providing participants with both the context and the tools for spending one or more years of their lives contributing to a specific chosen avenue of public service
The Center will invite men and women who have been trailblazers in charting new courses of public service in a variety of fields to share their experiences, answer practical and theoretical questions offer guidance to the fellows of the Center, and where possible, offer internship and training opportunities.
The stakes for our nation’s future could not be higher. Young people especially must learn that their future rests on revival of citizen participation at all levels of government or they will increasingly lose popular sovereignty, the power of American citizenship.
One person can make a difference and every person should try.
— Program Description —
The Center, through its endowment, will provide fellowships and other research- and application-focused study in academic and community-based settings. Additionally, the Center will bring to campus cutting-edge public service leaders who have been instrumental in developing tools for successful public-private partnerships to speak and to lead recurring seminars throughout the year.
Students and those accepted as fellows will receive academic credit for both their course work and field work through the Center. This work will be structured per rigorous, results-oriented project deliverables as established by the Center and its academic partner. Results will range from published research to community-based activity, or other outcome that furthers the growth of democracy and the ideals of our American republic.
Participants may also be accepted from non-academic institutions, including professionals actively working in public, nonprofit and private organizations who demonstrate a commitment to public service and offer proposals for long-term strategies to address underserviced public service objectives.
The Center’s Board of Trustees and Board of Advisors will work with relevant administrative and academic leaders at the partner institution to develop the set of criteria which will be applied to those seeking acceptance to the Center’s academic and training programs.
— Next Steps —
The Center will be small at the outset but will expand in scope and outreach over the years to fulfill the purpose and goals outlined above.
As financial support expands, so will the number of fellows who participate in the Center’s life.
The Center will have an executive director, a small management staff, and a public governing board of trustees as well as a board of expert advisors from across public, nonprofit and private sector interests. All activities of the Center and its participants will be publicly available. Forums organized by the Center will be open to the public.
The Center will establish partnerships with many NGOs to enable Center students and Fellows to have practical experience outside the classroom in developing and implementing best practices to accomplish frontline progress in programs designed to promote the common good.
- Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry (eliminating childhood hunger)
- City Year (working with citizens in low-income areas)
- Teach for America (working with students in low-income areas)
- Children’s Health Fund (helping children in need of health care)
- Vets’ Community Connections (involving more Americans from all walks of life in community reintegration for returning veterans and their families)
- U.N. Foundation (promoting global issues such as the environment, climate change and human rights)
- SUMMIT.AHEAD. (convening policy entrepreneur Fellows to develop programs to fix tomorrow, today)
— About Gary Hart —
Since retiring from the United States Senate, Gary Hart has been extensively involved in international law and business, as a strategic advisor to major U.S. corporations, and as a teacher, author and lecturer.
Gary Hart most recently served as Personal Representative of Secretary of State John Kerry in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, and was chair of the International Security Advisory Board of the Department of State, vice-chair of the Secretary of Homeland Security’s Advisory Council, chair of the American Security Project, the Threat Reduction committee at the Department of Defense, and co-chair of the US-Russia Commission.
Gary Hart was co-chair of the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21 st Century. The Commission performed the most comprehensive review of national security since 1947, predicted the terrorist attacks on America, and proposed a sweeping overhaul of U.S. national security structures and policies for the post-Cold War new century and the age of terrorism. For 15 years, Senator Hart was Senior Counsel to Coudert Brothers, a multinational law firm with offices in thirty-two cities located in nineteen countries around the world.
He was president of Global Green, the U.S. affiliate of Mikhail Gorbachev’s environmental foundation, Green Cross International. He was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund; a member of the Defense Policy Board; and was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was co-chair of the Council task force that produced the report: “America Unprepared—America Still at Risk”, in October, 2002. Senator Hart was a member of the National Academy of Sciences task force on Science and Security.
Gary Hart has been Visiting Fellow, Chatham Lecturer, and McCallum Memorial Lecturer at Oxford University, Global Fund Lecturer at Yale University, and Regents Lecturer at the University of California. He has earned a doctor of philosophy degree (D.Phil.) from Oxford University and graduate law (J.D.) and divinity (B.D.) degrees from Yale University. He was visiting lecturer at the Yale Law School and is the author of twenty-one books.
Gary Hart represented the State of Colorado in the United States Senate from 1975 to 1987. In 1984 and 1988, he was a candidate for his party’s nomination for President. He has been awarded the title of Grande Ufficiale by the President of the Italian Republic; the Secretary of Defense’s Award for Exceptional Public Service; and the Award of Merit by the Yale Law School.
Senator Hart was first elected to the Senate in 1974, having never before sought public office, and was reelected in 1980. During his 12 years in the Senate, he served on the Armed Services Committee, where he specialized in nuclear arms control and was an original founder of the military reform caucus. He also served on the Senate Environment Committee, Budget Committee, and Intelligence Oversight Committee.
During his Senate years, he played a leadership role in major environmental and conservation legislation, military reform initiatives, new initiatives to advance the information revolution and new directions in foreign policy. He is widely-recognized as among the first to forecast the end of the Cold War.
Senator Hart resides with his family in Kittredge, Colorado.
© 2019 Hart Center for Public Service, Forum280, Inc.