Robert Harris *85 (Courtesy Partnership for Public Service/Sam Kittner - Kittner.com)
In the 1896 speech that would give Princeton its informal motto, “in the nation’s service,” Woodrow Wilson 1879, then the University president, called on the campus to open its classrooms to the “air” of public affairs. “I do not mean the air of party politics,” he clarified, “but the air of the world’s transactions, … the sense of the duty of man towards man.” Robert Harris *85, a deputy legal adviser for the State Department and master’s graduate from the public-policy school that bears Wilson’s name, has pursued the “duty of man towards man” (or “human towards human”) in his 25 years at the State Department, becoming a leader in America’s work to support international human rights and the rights of refugees. Earlier this year, Harris was a finalist for a Sammy (Service to America Medal), an honor that recognizes excellence among federal civil servants. The citation commended his work to “protect civil and political rights of individuals worldwide.” Last week, Harris was profiled as the Partnership for Public Service’s Federal Player of the Week, published in The Washington Post.
The Post story was filled with praise from State Department colleagues. Legal Adviser Harold Hongju Koh said Harris has “completely reshaped the human rights agenda.” Michael Kozak, a senior adviser on democracy, human rights and labor, called him “a skillful and persistent negotiator.” And Samuel Witten, the former principal deputy assistant secretary of state for population, said that Harris “has respect for our treaty obligations, professional integrity, [and] confidence that he can get things done.”
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