State senator makes surprise appearance at NU College Democrats’ meeting


Emily Chin/Daily Senior Staffer

State Sen. Napoleon Harris speaks about his Northwestern football experience and encourages students to join his campaign for U.S. Senate. Harris surprised College Democrats with a visit at their first meeting of the year Tuesday night.

Emily Chin, Social Media Editor

Illinois State Sen. Napoleon Harris, a Northwestern alum, surprised attendees at the first NU College Democrats meeting of the year Tuesday night.

Harris (Communication ‘01) told The Daily he noticed the event on Twitter and decided to stop by after speaking at a different event. About 20 minutes into the meeting, the Democratic senator stepped in without warning to engage with students and talk about his upcoming campaign for U.S. Senate.

“It was Northwestern, so me being a former student-athlete here, it was important for me to come back where it all started for me,” Harris, who played on the football team as a student, told The Daily.

Prominent political figures have shown up unannounced to College Democrats meetings in the past, as the group has a strong public presence, said president Robert Bourret, a SESP junior.

Harris, a Chicago native and former NFL star, spoke about how his NU experience and subsequent football background helped him in his political career.

He noted that throughout his first state Senate run, voters did not think much of him due to his lack of political experience. However, he was able to focus on his broad life experience — ranging from growing up in a low-income family to rising as a football star — and was able to eventually connect with voters, he said.

“It was so many different ways of connecting with people,” he said to a room of more than 50 students. “(People) thought football was going to become a negative thing when it was really a way of connecting with people.”

For Harris, serving as senator was a chance to give back to the Chicago community that raised him, he said. He grew up on social services and food stamps and was raised by a single mother, which taught him about creating jobs and mentorship programs — goals he still has today.

“Who better to lead this community than me?” he said. “I lived there, was born and raised there, understand the education system that was there, who understands every aspect of life in that community.”

With his U.S. Senate run in motion, Harris invited students to join his campaign. He particularly hopes to gain support from the NU community because he has such strong ties to the school, he told The Daily.

Harris hopes to engage college students, as he thinks young people are the “backbone” of the nation’s communities.

SESP Sophomore Michael Hermes hopes to get involved with Harris’ campaign. The main reason he came to the meeting, he said, was to get more involved in a political campaign.

“I worked with a state senator when I was in high school so I think it’s really cool that he was in the Illinois Senate and now he’s going to the U.S. Senate,” Hermes said. “I’m excited to see how it manifests itself.”

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