I first met Harris Wofford at Georgetown University in the summer of ’62 when I went to Washington D.C. for Peace Corps Training to Ethiopia. Striding across the quadrangle, his jacket hooked Kennedy-like over his shoulder, and carrying a brown briefcase wedged with folders and papers, Harris introduced himself as our Peace Corps Director.
He was working at the White House then, going to late night meetings on civil rights with JFK, then coming to jog with us in early morning PT training, and all the while talking endless about the Peace Corps being a “university in dispersion.”
He envisioned a Gandhi-like world where everyone would volunteer for something to help man kind, and we’d all gather around campfires later at night for great-book-discussions on the poems of Robert Frost and the writings of Solzhenitsyn.
Harris hasn’t stopped talking since. We had monthly book seminars in Ethiopia over those two years, then I was lucky enough to work with him at Peace Corps HQ, and later at Old Westbury, Long Island, where Harris was the president of a new experimental college in the SUNY system. Here, he proved that it was easier to be a liberal in a conservation world then a college president on a campus full of radical students.[As we often said of Harris, he had many faults but none of them were human. Also, he would have a hundred new ideas a day, and while 99 of them were hopeless, the one good one was priceless.]
From those years, Harris went onto be president of another college, and then a U.S. senator, all the while talking world peace and volunteer service. And he saw clearly into our future. He was with Obama when no one east of the Illinois Central had heard of Barack.
Here’s an interview that fills in where Harris has been in life and what he is doing today. For those of us who know Harris, we always know he is up to something new — now pushing 80, Harris has just begun to jog.