18 Dec

Dear Students, Alumni, Faculty and Friends

Welcome to the Hart Leadership Website, a portal into a unique and dynamic teaching community that has transformed the lives of generations of Duke students and Duke professors alike.  As the new Director of this storied leadership program, I am delighted to hold up the pedagogical values and aspirations that have not only made the Hart Leadership Program one of the jewels at Duke but also an incubator for lifelong practices of social and political change, innovation, and leadership among our students and alumni.

As an historian, I do not believe leadership is a timeless thing. Rather, it emerges from the ethical imperatives of a particular moment, what Martin Luther King Jr. once described as a recognition of “the fierce urgency of now.”  That recognition and the set of skills that nurture and sustain it can, fortunately, be taught and learned. Leadership is something we practice in relationship with others and in the particular historical context that gives our actions moral purpose. Leadership begins with a capacity for reflection and improvisation as we adapt what we think we know about the world to the messy and inspiring realities that we live within. It becomes visible not only when an individual change-maker experiences success — when a citizen wins an election, for example — but when she, he, or they learn how to mobilize people who disagree with one another toward common aspirational goals. Leadership manifests itself when people manage to build a bigger “we,” when seemingly ordinary people create systemic change that fires the imagination, and galvanizes hope for the kind of society we want to create and inhabit, as citizens of nations and this precious planet simultaneously.

This fall I am excited to convene a truly remarkable community of teachers and students, some of them founders and former directors of the Hart Leadership Program (HLP), others teaching and learning in it for the first time, and still others who may have just heard of the HLP. I urge you to peruse our current course offerings and also to visit the story quilt, a moving set of testimonials by former students that explain in powerful ways what a purposeful life looks and feels like. I also encourage you to pay attention to our events board where we highlight upcoming opportunities for students within Hart classes and across Durham County to listen, engage, and learn from one another.

We have three events that we are sponsoring and/or organizing this fall, each of them part of a revived “Connect to Politics” initiative.  On September 21st , HLP co-sponsored with POLIS a visit from Kathy Tran. Tran is a 2000 Duke history graduate and alum of the SOL program. Tran came to the United States as a child refugee from Vietnam, and is the first Asian American woman elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates.

The second event focuses on the recent history and importance of student voting and the deliberate ways students have been discouraged or outright disfranchised from voting since 2008, when North Carolina produced the biggest youth voting wave of any state in the nation. On Thursday,  October 25th, we will feature Parkland student, Sari Kauffman, whose response to the tragic shooting of her peers at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has been to register thousands of student voters while mobilizing many more to do the important work of getting citizens to vote in dozens of counties across Florida. Sari will be joined onstage by Anita Earls, a civil rights attorney who has litigated gerrymandering and defended voting rights across the South, and Symonne Singleton, a 2017 Duke grad who was disenfranchised in the 2014 midterm elections. On Friday, October 26th, Sari and Symonne will speak at North Caroline Central University.

Finally, on November 29th, we will convene a public conversation about “Dreamers,” focusing on the experiences and leadership that young undocumented men and women have generated across political, generational, and cultural divides.  In all three convenings, we hold up the theme of Youth Leadership, reflecting on what the “fierce urgency of now” looks like for an extraordinary group of young men and women in North America, and what it means for the larger political and cultural life of the United States in the fall of 2018.

Stay tuned for more exciting events to come, including the rollout of a new SOL class sequence that I will be convening in the spring, summer and fall of 2019. Informational meetings for SOL will commence at the end of September by HLP Program Coordinator Maria Pacheco.

I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at our fall events,

Gunther Peck

Director, The Hart Leadership Program



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