This dispatch is slightly different from most posted on this site over the years.  Different in two dimensions: the use of the first-person pronoun, and the reference to a personal project.  Apologies for breaking my own rules, but I hope this may interest some of the loyal auditors of this site:

This fall friends, former supporters, and family will establish the Hart Center for Public Service at the Metropolitan State University in Denver.

As a member of the “ask not” generation, the orienting standard in my life has been public service.  It is the secular equivalent of the kind of religious service, teaching philosophy and religion, to which I was originally committed.  But the ideal of helping society here and now with immediate problems from hunger to nuclear arms control gave my soul direction almost sixty years ago.

I am blessed, some might say cursed, with that trudging single mindedness that age does not diminish.  So, not having a role to play in government (for obvious reasons) these days, the idea of promoting public service, broadly defined, for a new generation fulfills a need.

John Kennedy did not say “become a politician” or “run for public office.”  His message was broader: give something of yourself to others, to the society.  Try to make life a little better for everyone, but especially those in need.

Leaving law school, many of us did head to Washington because that was where the energy and action was, but in my case with the certain knowledge that after two or three years we would return to Colorado for some kind of career, family raising, and community involvement.  What developed thereafter is pretty well known, at least to those who care to know.

Despite having clear public service instincts, Presidents Carter, Clinton, and Obama did not repeat the Kennedy call.  President Clinton did create AmeriCorps but that was patterned after a private sector initiative called City Year built by Alan Khazei and Michael Brown, two young idealistic law school graduates.  These presidents’ reluctance to repeat the “ask not” theme was probably for fear of journalistic accusations of trying to be “Kennedyesque”.

Public service includes service in government at all levels, but also humanitarian projects, civic engagement, community involvement, and a myriad of ways of making society better.  Theologically, I could never be a Calvinist.  There are not the saved and the damned.  Despite conservative doctrine that if you are at the bottom of the ladder, too bad, we all can do better and be better by helping each other.

Though the Center’s appeal will be directly mostly to a younger generation that needs to see the torch of idealism in action, our message will be directed across the age spectrum.  Many retirees have time to help if given the structure, tools, and opportunities to do so.

After discovering the historic republics, I realized many years ago that, wittingly or unwittingly, Kennedy drew his theme from the ancient republics and those throughout history.  That theme was civic virtue, the innate sense that I am better off and feel better about myself (virtuous) by community engagement, being part of the solution to a better society.  That is the primary reward for public service.  The sense at the end of the day that I’ve helped make things a little better.  All the money in the world cannot provide that satisfaction.

We do not live only for ourselves.  We are not only citizens of a nation.  We are members of the human society.  John Dunne famously wrote: “Send not to find for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

The image of service is a torch.  It shines brightest when it is handed from one generation to another.  It is an ideal, an ideal to which human society at its best aspires.

From our modest venue, we in this endeavor seek to keep that torch alive, to send it out across the nation and the world, to inspire in others the warmth and the light of civic virtue.  And like Tennyson’s “Ulysses” to say to those looking for a nobler life, “Come, my friends, T’is not too late to seek a newer world.”


10 Responses to “The Hart Center for Public Service”

  1. JD Kinnick Says:

    As a supporter of the Hart for President campaigns in ’84 and ’88(including the re-start) I will be glad to make a financial donation to the Hart Center. Can you please post how to donate? Either online or check, etc. I’m sure there are other posters here who feel the same.


  2. Brian C. McCarthy Says:


    I contributed early when your daughter Andrea first reached out to your SUPPORTERS (please don’t say ‘former supporters’) several months back and I will gladly contribute again. Whatever I can do to assist using the Facebook fan page, please let me know and I will do it.


  3. Ray Mizumura Says:

    Inspiring and most welcome news, Senator Hart.

  4. Michael Says:

    This is indeed exciting news. When one thinks about it, one realizes how unique JFK’s “Ask not” challenge to the nation was, not only here but out in the world, generally. Though I’m not sure the failure of subsequent presidents to clearly repeat JFK’s call was for fear of being accused of trying to appear “Kennedyesque.” (What politician of the “Ask not” generation wouldn’t want to be called “Kenneyeque”?) I think it was the distrust of government that grew out of the late 60s, which was so skillfully exploited by those preaching that government was the problem, and the subsequent worship of the private sector as the answer to the nation’s troubles, was the culprit. In any case, I hope we are kept informed of the Hart Center’s activities and accomplishments, as well as anything we can do for it.

  5. John Dedie Says:

    Great news, willing to help!

  6. Gary Hart Says:

    Many thanks to those who have offered support, financial and otherwise. We are in the process of setting up a tax deductible Foundation for the Center and will have a website directing supporters to that Foundation. We are deeply grateful to all who have indicated interest and support and we will keep you informed. Formal announcement in the fall at a date to be determined. Gary Hart

  7. Paul G Says:


    I proudly join all bloggers of good will and thoughtful disposition and the many millions of humble Gary’s supporters over the past half-century to cheer on the successful development and establishment of The Hart Center for Public Service (HCPS) at the Metropolitan State University in Denver in fall 2019.

    Like the human heroes of ancient republics, our honorable host’s 50+ years’ public service journey includes many accomplishments “to make things a little better for all of us.” At least one is worthy of a Longfellow poem. For example, his pre-9/11 flight to a warn a hostile White House of his instinct that terrorist attacks was imminent as his commission unanimously warned seven months prior.

    But such has been the cruel joke of a relentlessly-demonic-disinformation campaign by the same people who filled the horrendous vacuum created by JFK’s murder that the Nixon-Reagan-Bush II philosophy of government for “the survival of the fittest” continues to trump the rest of us.

    It should therefore not be a surprise even to thoughtful people of good will that our hero was set up for the poisoned cup of exile by the same Nixonian “strategists” still fooling American media: Black, Stone, Manafort, Atwater, Ailes.

    Between the ancients and the present day, a man on a donkey dared challenge us to love our enemies. He practiced what he preached as he was often in the company of both rich and poor and everyone in between including once with the devil himself. But even he was made to suffer greatly for all of us.

    Such seems to be the primary inspiration for our humble and honorable host Gary Hart’s mostly unheralded half-century of dedicated service if only to make all our lives just “a little better.”

    I pray our honorable host’s inclination to minimize his many noble accomplishments when offered for inclusion in the HCPS – as his (lovable?) enemy strategists have gloated over for too long – will, instead, allow his life-long friends and supporters to show as befits a modern human hero.

  8. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    What a wonderfully welcome piece of great news – looking forward to the website!


    A brilliant initiative from and about, a brilliant man.

    JFK inspires those of younger generations, I being that age of Senator Harts run for President, and from other countries, I from the UK.

    This venture might be in Denver, Colorado, I from London, in Nottingham, England, look forward to being able to engage with it, as with its founder.

  10. Brian C. McCarthy Says:

    Senator, if I may speak for many, we are very pleased to see you so honored.

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