Heard on Campus

News and views from speakers at HLS

illustration of two faces

Credit: Melinda Beck

“The mind-expanding part of law school is to surround yourself with people who think differently from you and to try to figure out why they think that way and to be open to changing your mind sometimes and to have the experience of changing their minds sometimes.”

—U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan ’86, speaking to students at Harvard Law School as part of the orientation program, Aug. 29.


“Every successful negotiation is defined as both parties leaving with an acceptable outcome. … If you ever think about a negotiation as a win/lose, you’re going to have a terrible experience, you’re going to be very dissatisfied, and not very many people are going to want to deal with you.”

—Rex Tillerson, former U.S. secretary of state, speaking at an event at Harvard organized by the American Secretaries of State project, a joint initiative of HLS, the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School, Sept. 17.


“Technology is intentionally developed to resolve social conflict in favor of the party implementing the technology.”

—HLS Professor Yochai Benkler ’94, from his keynote at “Innovation, Justice and Globalization,” a conference at HLS focused on intellectual property issues, Sept. 26-27.


Illustration of a butterfly

Credit: Melinda Beck

“At 8 o’clock the assembly started. Maj. Yanai was giving a pep talk: ‘This is the day you prove your patriotism to the emperor. Do your best,’ and so on. We said, ‘Yes, sir! We’ll do our best.’ Then, at that second, I saw the blinding blueish-white flash in the window, and I had a sensation of floating up in the air. … I speak because I feel it is my responsibility as someone who has intimate knowledge of what these horrific things can do to human beings. … I consider it my moral responsibility.”

—Setsuko Thurlow, an activist with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, speaking at an HLS event organized by the school’s Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative, Oct. 8. Thurlow was a 13-year-old student in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on the city. In 2017, she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for ICAN.


Illustration of a bear with a smiling face with heart eyes tied around its head

Credit: Melinda Beck

“I have come here because the topic we will be talking about directly refers back to topics I am focusing on in my presidency: the future of liberal democracies. How does the internet—how do Facebook, Twitter, algorithms and anonymity on the internet—how do all of these things change the democratic culture of debate which is of such great importance to us?”

—German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, leading a discussion at HLS on “Ethics of the Digital Transformation,” hosted by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, Nov. 1.


“The 9/11 fund was absolutely the right thing to do, an innovative response to a national horror. But you’ll never see that again; it was one for the history books rather than the legal books.”

—Kenneth Feinberg, special master of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, on a panel sponsored by the Program on Negotiation, “Innovative Models for Resolving Disputes after Mass Disasters and Catastrophic Harms,” at HLS, Oct. 22.


“Tragically, we have moved away from federalism and separation of powers under the leadership of the Houses of Representatives, of Senates, and of White Houses of every conceivable partisan combination.”

—Mike Lee, U.S. senator from Utah, offering his perspective on the current state of constitutional law in the U.S. at an event sponsored by the Harvard Federalist Society, Nov. 8.


Illustration of a chained hand holding a piece of paper with writing on it

Credit: Melinda Beck

“The tale I’ve told is a sad tale, in many respects. I mean, look at what prompted David Walker to write his appeal [‘to the Coloured Citizens of the World,’ 1829]. He wrote it because of racial slavery. … But the tale is not an entirely forlorn tale, because the appeal survived. And it continues to live. And that is so in large part because of public opinion rallying around the banner of freedom of expression. Public opinion was the saving grace—not the courts. Public opinion in the 1830s, actually, was way ahead of judicial willingness to protect freedom of expression. And it seems to me that this … should be a key lesson. … Public opinion is really going to be the ultimate and the most important bulwark for the values that we cherish.”

—HLS Professor Randall Kennedy, taking the long view on attempted censorship of an abolitionist tract, in a talk at HLS on “American Slavery/American Censorship,” part of a lecture series on censorship held during Banned Books Week, Sept. 25.