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The Citizen

“It’s Our Turn”: Giving back without waiting to be asked

By Nathan Finney, MC/MPA’13

One of the greatest attitudinal skills learnt, that I shall be taking away from my time at the Kennedy School is a drive to help others.  I know many students came here with this trait ingrained in their DNA, but this sense was more dormant in mine.  My experience with helping people was not immediate, but distant: protecting family and country by serving in the military.

Now that has changed.

Through learning with and from social entrepreneurs, policy makers and world-changers here at the school, I know it’s not just about serving silently, but asking what you can do.  It also has to be more than simply asking and standing back, waiting.  It has to be about actively making that change happen without having to ask or be asked.  It has to be about owning the problem.  It must be about making it our turn to make a difference.

One of the ways I have sought to do this, together with another fellow student and mid-career at HKS, Billy Pope, and with the help of our batch mate and friend, Theresa Lynn, is to raise money for the Boston Marathon in support of ReadBoston, a fantastic non-profit dedicated to children’s literacy and focused on putting books in the hands of Boston’s kids.  Together, Billy and I have raised almost $10,000 for this fantastic charity.  We could not have done it without the motivation provided by the kids themselves – kids whose lives we will be trying to help in a small way.  And we could not have done it without the support of our friends and family here at HKS.

Even more personal to me is supporting our military veterans, the second cause I am assisting through the Boston Marathon.  The specific organization is Team Red, White and Blue ( which is comprised of individual volunteers who dedicate their time, energy and expertise to enrich the lives of our wounded veterans and their families through physical activity.

I have been a supporter of Team Red, White and Blue since its inception two years ago because of its simple, yet powerful theory of change.  I have personally felt the healing and community-building capacity that can be found in group physical activity, particularly as a part of reintegration into my community – whether following a combat deployment or when shifting from a military-centric life to one primarily civilian in composition (such as attending HKS).

As a member of the Massachusetts Chapter’s leadership while here in Cambridge, I have had an even better exposure to the power of group physical activity.  Through weekly runs, winter Yoga sessions, swimming classes and biking activities, there are many programs dedicated to the veterans in our area.  Of particular value to me has been the partnership we have developed with the Bedford VA to provide outside services to veterans desiring more physical activity.

As Billy and I continue running the miles week-in and week-out to prepare for April 15, we’ll keep the kids of Boston and our military veterans in our minds.  We’d greatly appreciate your support, whether by donating directly to our campaigns ( and, taking part in our raffle of Boston sports memorabilia ( or supporting the dinner fundraiser that we’ll hold later in the spring.

It’s Our Turn.