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August 31, 2012

Law student speaks at Democratic National Convention

Eric Harris to rally college Democrats during DNC week

University of Oregon School of Law second-year student Eric Harris already is making strides toward his goal of a career in politics. Harris has been invited to speak on behalf of the disabled community at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on August 31.

Harris, who uses a wheelchair, was asked to deliver a speech at the convention after completing an externship with the DNC during the summer.

This year's DNC primarily is focused on President Obama's reelection. Among 80 other interns from around the country, Harris was placed in the Political Department within the National Committee for the summer. He was specifically tasked with understanding the different political races throughout the country and how they could potentially affect the President's reelection. Harris was also responsible for writing briefings for high level Democrats such as the President, Vice President, First Lady, senators, members of congress and governors. He covered the western region of the country for political information that he was writing. One of his most memorable assignments was writing for First Lady Michelle Obama: 

"I was responsible for writing a briefing for the first lady who would be going to Corvallis to give a commencement speech at Oregon State University," Harris said. "There is a lot of information that she gets from her strategists and speechwriters, but there was still some extra information about the location that she needed from our department."

While managing his busy schedule of research and writing, Harris was informed that he would be assisting with the disabled outreach for the campaign. This was extremely important to him for many reasons. Using a wheelchair himself, Harris was asked to give his own perspective on how he believes the President could make the best image possible with the disabled community.

Harris said, "My work with the disabled constituency outreach was fun. I wrote several blogs for the Democrats' website for disabled Americans. I wrote a blog piece to talk about how the Affordable Care Act decision will affect my life personally. I have also been able to speak with the people in the disabled constituency outreach about expanding and really trying to make a 'Disabled Americans for Obama' group."

A high-level wheelchair basketball player, Harris has even been speaking with friends on the USA Men's Wheelchair Basketball team as part of his disability outreach.

Additionally, during the summer, Harris addressed college Democrats and focused on the importance of being a college democrat with a disability in 2012:

"As Americans with disabilities, it is important that we continue to help others change the frame of mind behind the views that come with not understanding what it means to have a disability. It is important that Americans understand that a disability is just something else that adds to the diverse culture that is America. The President and the Democratic Party have shown that they understand this. They have shown that they understand that people with disabilities are a group who can do many amazing things for this country. The President wants to make sure that people with disabilities are heard and that changes continue to be made on behalf of all Americans, including those of us who have disabilities." (Full Speech HERE)

Harris grew up around politics and has had the fortunate opportunity to make many beneficial connections during his time in D.C. After law school, Harris hopes to move there and make a career for himself in the world of politics.

He even had the chance to practice advocating for those with disabilities as he challenged the Metro system during his time in D.C. (The Metro is the public transportation subway system in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia areas). Harris had problems with accessibility and availability of the elevators at Metro stations. He raised awareness of the problems and spoke with politicians on Capitol Hill who were willing to help him address the issues.

"I had a great time in Washington, and I definitely feel like I have a better outlook on what I want my career to be. I want my first career to involve D.C. politics. I feel that this externship along with my other internship early in the summer really opens that up for me," said Harris.

Harris is only beginning to pursue his career goals and his experiences at Oregon Law and in Washington have provided him with a solid start.

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