Oct 7, 2022 - Politics

New Kennedy Institute leader sees civics ed helping divided nation

Kennedy Institute CEO Adam Hinds in the institute's replica of the U.S. Senate. Photo: Mike Deehan/Axios.

The Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has given the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate and its new leader a recharged mission to promote civics education and civil dialogue.

  • Former state lawmaker Adam Hinds took over as CEO last month. The institute plans to reopen to the public in the spring for the first time since 2020.

Why it matters: Hinds and the institute's board see civics education and bipartisan dialogue as a crucial part of healing the country's political divisions and protecting democracy.

  • The institute provides a simulated Senate experience for school groups, letting students deliberate and vote on issues to teach about the legislative process.

What they're saying: "We're an institute for the U.S. Senate, and the attack on the Capitol just really shifted our focus. So we're going to play a broader role in national dialogue," Hinds told Axios.

  • "The board has been clear that since Jan. 6 we need to expand our mission," into more education programming for students, he said.
  • At the same time, the institute will ramp up partnerships with other organizations to promote the kind of civil, civic dialogue Sen. Kennedy championed.

The big picture: The institute's board of directors, which includes former U.S. Senators Tom Daschle, Chris Dodd and John Sununu, had an emotional response to the insurrection and wants to enhance the EMKI's mission to educate Americans about the Senate, Hinds told Axios.

  • Hinds said board members saw "unrecognizable relationships" among members of Congress compared to their years in Washington.
  • They want Hinds to expand the EMKI's reach into more national partnerships and events while adding more virtual education programming.
  • The institute has partnered with the Utah-based Orrin G. Hatch Foundation and the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., to stage a series of policy debates between sitting senators on current topics.

What's next: The institute will co-host more televised policy debates next year in partnership with the Hatch Foundation. One will be in Utah and another on Columbia Point in Dorchester in the institute's reproduction of the U.S. Senate chamber.


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