Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program

“Leadership is a commitment to an idea, to a dream, and to a vision of what can be.”   Benazir Bhutto, HR’73

ClassACT brings Harvard-Radcliffe Class of 1973 classmates together to address important local, national, and international issues by initiating and supporting positive change. Consistent with this mission, ClassACT is developing the Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program (BBLP) in honor of our classmate, the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan. 

Benazir Bhutto ClassACTUsing fellowships, relationship-building, and public education as our tools, the BBLP will advance peace and human rights consistent with the principles--democracy, equality for women, reconciliation of religious and cultural differences, and education without gender or religious bias. While at Harvard-Radcliffe and later at Oxford, Benazir Bhutto came to value these principles as governing concepts essential to successful modern societies. We plan to accomplish our goals through identifying, educating, connecting and supporting promising leaders from predominantly Muslim countries who share these values. Since women are under-represented in public service and politics in this arc of Muslim majority countries, enhancing their lives, while improving their influence on public policy will be critical to our success.

Benazir Bhutto said: “While I was in America for those four years, I participated and observed in a miracle of democracy—I saw the power of people changing policies, changing leaders and changing history.”1 Now more than ever we feel the need to illuminate and promote the core principles that made the democracy Benazir Bhutto witnessed firsthand in America vibrant and strong. As she wrote about education without gender or religious bias, “Education is the first step to success, to independence and to a satisfying life.”2 On equality for women: “Today in this world, in the fight for the liberation of women, there can be no neutrality.”3 And on reconciliation of religious and cultural differences, “There has been enough pain. It is time.”4

1. Agnes Scott Women’s College speech, Georgia, March 2000 
2. International Women’s Day Speech, Dubai College for Women, March 2004
3. Fourth World Conference on Women Speech, Beijing, China, Sept. 4, 1995
4. Reconciliation, 2008


  •  To engage and support effective, creative individuals from predominantly Muslim countries in the geographic space from Lebanon to Bangladesh who are committed to principle-based positive change.
  • To assist leaders from all sectors of these societies in acquiring the tools they can use to succeed in working with their countrymen and women to effect change.
  • To improve the American public’s cross-cultural understanding of leadership challenges within these countries. 
  • To engage HR’73 classmates in addressing critical leadership issues.
We expect these leaders to return to their home countries (or work in support of change from outside the country, if return is not an option) and apply what they have learned to introduce positive change. In addition, the program will encourage and expect the ongoing exchange of ideas among these leaders and classmates to further refine and advance each leader’s ability to catalyze reforms. ClassACT will create a significant network of Fellows and Associates, who can enhance each other’s success, not only during their BBLP experience at Harvard, but in subsequent years.

Fellows and Associates will benefit from the culture of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (HKS), the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (WCFIA), Harvard University, and the United States, as well as from the connections that they make with other like-minded leaders from all over the world. Strong relationship development is a cornerstone of the program.

In the initial years of the Program there will be particular emphasis on attracting women to the Fellowships. Nonetheless, all aspects of the BBLP will be designed for men and women, who have demonstrated leadership potential, and who are open-minded, passionate, brave, and bold— to arm them with an education, a network, and a broad array of tools to address the needs of successful modern societies.


 ClassACT believes that a residential, academic experience at Harvard offers opportunities not only for exposure to guidance and challenge from teachers and peers, but also the social immersion that creates lasting relationships. The Pilot Program for the BBLP will start in 2018 with a one-year fellowship housed at the Mason Program of HKS for mid-career scholars. We are studying additional fellowship models.

During the Pilot Program options may include shorter joint initiatives with Benazir Bhutto’s other alma mater, Oxford University, as well as other leadership initiatives, such as the Eisenhower Fellowships.

Initially, HKS will host the fellowship component of the program although other Harvard Schools and programs may participate in the Fellowship experiences.

Leadership Team

Advisory Board

 Sanam Bhutto
 Kimball Chen
 Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović
 Al Franken
 Peter Galbraith
 Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend

Steering Committee

 Ann Bailen Fisher
 Robert Bowie
 Barbara Brosius Lindsay
 Rick Brotman
 Kimball Chen
 Marion Dry, Director*
 Hamilton Fish
 Peter Galbraith
 Sallie Gouverneur*
 Leigh Hafrey*
 Terry Hunt
Stanley Mark*
Bahman Mossavar-Rahmani*

 Carl Muller*
 George Putnam*
 Jonathan Sprague*
 Therese Steiner*
 Holly Weeks

*ClassACT Board


 The Associate Program: Scholars studying in Harvard graduate programs who come from these regions and whose goals are aligned with the principles of this program will be invited to participate in the Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program as Associates. Associates will provide advice to shape the BBLP and help build a larger network of leaders, while at Harvard and later, in the field. They, like the Fellows, will have access to the Co-curricular program of BBLP. The Associates Program will provide collegiality, intellectual capital, and support to Fellows and Associates alike.

The Co-curricular Program: Fellows and Associates will participate in the Co-curricular opportunities of the Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program. We will match the Fellows' and Associates’ interests and leadership development needs with appropriate HR73 classmates and their networks, to serve as advisors or mentors. Opportunities may include: 

  • Access to Orientation and program elements at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs
  • HR73 classmate, HKS, and WCFIA facilitated connections in the US and other countries
  • Access to advisors and mentors once Fellows and Associates have returned to their work/countries 
  • Group meetings with leaders, advisors, influence makers from HR73 and their networks
  • Regular gatherings of Associates, while in Cambridge, to build personal relationships and share knowledge and experience
  • Opportunities to attend conferences/events in other locations

Public Education: The BBLP public education component will be developed with input from Fellows and Associates with the goal of promoting understanding in the American public as well as cross-cultural exchange emphasizing the core principles outlined above. This element may include presentations in conjunction with HKS and the Weatherhead Center, outreach to Harvard alumni, programs for children and teens, webinars, and social media campaigns.


 ClassACT’s proposal for this effort is unusual. We view this diversified program as a start-up of a highly innovative venture. We have launched the Associates, Co-curricular, and Public Education programs, and in 2018, the BBLP will be financially supporting its first fellow(s). It is ClassACT’s goal to add eight to ten new Associates per year. This will result in growing a community of Associates and Fellows quickly during the start-up phase.

As the founding sponsor, ClassACT will guide overall BBLP development and implementation, raise seed capital and evaluate the program. When proof of concept and value are clear, we will assess operational and financial strategies for supporting a long-term, sustainable program.

ClassACT HR ‘73

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