LARRY HARRIS is the type of man who you can practically hear smiling through the phone. He’s quick to joke and has an infectious laugh—you’re bound to hear it often.
If you ask Larry (LAS ’15), he’ll say that’s the Chicago in him. He grew up on the south and west sides of Chicago before moving to Chicago Heights at fourteen and says the overwhelming, consistent community support stuck with him.
Chicago is often regarded as a surly and even dangerous city, but Harris would politely disagree. That’s just not his Chicago. When his family didn’t have electricity and he had to study at the school library, it was the kind support from his neighbors and teachers that shaped him.
His father, who worked as a CTA bus driver for thirty years, spent his entire career driving through Chicago’s neighborhoods and interacting with countless people—and Harris saw his father’s love for the work every single day.
“For me, Chicago is about the kindness of its people, and it informs who I am. It taught me to treat everyone like they are a person. To listen to them. Three times now I’ve met someone from Chicago abroad and they always say, ‘I knew you were from Chicago because you are so nice.’”
That’s the type of attitude Larry is bringing to his work as a diplomat in Cameroon, a post he started in August. Harris spent two years as a Rangel Fellow, in which time he completed a master’s degree from American University in return for at least five years of foreign service.
He is spending his first year adjudicating visas for Cameroonians who want to visit the U.S. and, likely, he will be among their first impressions of Americans. That first contact is something Larry doesn’t take lightly.
“This first impression will stay with them on how America is for a very long time. Regardless of any decision we make, it’s important to put our best foot forward,” he says.
His second year in Cameroon will be spent on the political side and most work will involve maintaining the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and the Cameroonian governments.
Source: Illinois News Bureau