Eric Garcetti ’88 remembers seeing Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley speak at an assembly while at Harvard. Now he’s hoping to become mayor himself in the May 21 election, in a run-off with City Controller Wendy Greuel.
Garcetti took 32.9 percent of the votes in the March 5 primary to Greuel’s 29.2 percent.
Since 2001, Garcetti has been a member of the Los Angeles City Council representing the 13th District.
Garcetti said that he did not plan to go into politics “until the day I decided to run for City Council.”
“I always knew I wanted to bring about a more just and analytical world,” Garcetti said. “I thought I might do it internationally. I thought I might do it in government or non-profits, but I probably didn’t think that I’d do it in local government. Maybe when I look back, all the things I learned [at Harvard School] led me there, but it wasn’t a conscious plan, it was more of a decision at the moment it felt right.”
Garcetti said that his time at Harvard School impressed upon him the importance of education, which remains a focus of his campaign.
When he was a junior, Garcetti and some of his friends talked AP US History teacher Dave Waterhouse into teaching an AP Government and Politics class. At homecoming last year, he told Waterhouse that that class was where he got interested in politics.
The young Garcetti left an impression on Waterhouse in lunchtime political discussions and through his involvement in Junior Statesmen of America, a national organization where members debate political issues and run for mock election at conventions.
“You could see that he liked to talk to the people and that he had his opinions on things and that he was really outgoing, a leader type,” Waterhouse said.
Senior Alumni Officer Harry Salamandra, who sponsored the Amnesty International Club in which Garcetti was involved, recalled that Garcetti was a prefect in his senior year.
“I wasn’t really surprised he got into politics because even something like Amnesty is social issues,” Salamandra said. “He seemed to always care, and this was obviously who he was as a person. He was a caring, altruistic-kind of person.”
Garcetti earned his B.A. in urban planning and political science and later an M.A. in International Relations at Columbia. He also studied at Oxford University and the London School of Economics as a Rhodes Scholar.