Remembering Robert S. McNamara

July 9, 2009

Graham Allison Remembers McNamara and His Connections with Harvard Kennedy School

Robert S. McNamara, secretary of defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and a frequent visitor to Harvard Kennedy School, passed away July 6, 2009. He was 93.

McNamara was instrumental in the creation of the John F. Kennedy School of Government and spoke on several occasions at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum regarding the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War and his views on war and peace.

"Bob McNamara played an important role in the creation of the John F. Kennedy School of Government as a key counselor to Robert Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy as they contemplated a living memorial for President Kennedy," said Graham Allison, former dean of Harvard Kennedy School and current Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. "In the most dangerous event of the Kennedy Administration, the Cuban Missile Crisis, then Secretary of Defense McNamara proved to be the President's most valued counselor. As Robert Kennedy noted, 'President Kennedy regarded Secretary McNamara as the most valuable public servant in his Administration and in the government.'"

McNamara also endowed a lecture series, The Robert McNamara Lecture on War and Peace. Former Sen. Sam Nunn, with McNamara in attendance, delivered the inaugural lecture in October 2008. Graham Allison moderated the Forum.

McNamara was also the Institute of Politics' first honorary associate when the IOP first opened its doors in 1966.

Robert McNamara's presentations and appearances at Harvard Kennedy School's John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum are available on the Forum website at:

October 17, 2008:

March 3, 2004:

October 18, 2002:

February 21, 2001:

April 27, 1999:

April 25, 1995:

See also the Harvard Kennedy School article regarding Robert McNamara:


For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Belfer Center Communications Office.“Remembering Robert S. McNamara.” Announcement, , July 9, 2009.