Danielle Allen H’18, former trustee and James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, is interviewed by Bella Edo '21, Ryan Kyle '23 and Jeremy Thomas '21.
Allen is a political theorist who has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology and the history of political thought. She is the recipient of the 2020 John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity, an award administered by the Library of Congress that recognizes work in disciplines not covered by the Nobel Prizes. Widely known for her work on justice and citizenship in both ancient Athens and modern America, Allen is the author of The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (2000), Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown vs. the Board of Education (2004), Why Plato Wrote (2010), Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014), Education and Equality (2016) and Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A. (2017).
Allen is also the principal investigator for the Democratic Knowledge Project, a distributed research and action lab at Harvard University. The Democratic Knowledge Project seeks to identify, strengthen and disseminate the bodies of knowledge, skills and capacities that democratic citizens need in order to succeed at operating their democracy. She is a co-chair of the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, formed to explore how best to respond to the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in political and civic life. Its final and bipartisan report, Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, was released in June 2020 and includes six strategies and 31 ambitious recommendations to help the nation emerge as a more resilient democracy by 2026, the nation’s 250th anniversary. As director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Allen led a collaboration of scientists and researchers at leading institutions to develop the Key Metrics For COVID Suppression framework, which provides clear, accessible guidance to policy makers and the public on how to target and suppress COVID-19 more effectively across the nation.