September 12, 2013
Near the end of his presentation, author Bob Harris couldn’t help but whip out his cell phone.
No, the former comic, Jeopardy! champion and travel writer wasn’t being rude, turning his back on his audience to take a call or read a text. He simply wanted to capture a snippet of video of the standing ovation the nearly 400 Avila University students, faculty, staff and neighbors showered him with following an enthralling, heart-tugging and often funny hour of presenting his new book, “The International Bank of Bob,” Sept. 5 in Goppert Theatre.
“I’ve spoken at a couple hundred colleges, and Avila University is the best reception I’ve received yet,” Harris said to the crowd. “The people here have been so wonderful, the students have read and know the book and have asked the best questions. I’ve really enjoyed it here.”
The book, which detailed Harris’ adventures as he traveled the world following his microloans, was assigned to first-year students at Avila as part of the University’s Common Reading Program. Not only did all first-year students read the book, they completed reflection papers and are in the process of raising money to make their own microloans.
So, those students had a vested interest in what Harris had to say, and he spent nearly 1 ½ hours reminiscing about his travels to Cambodia, Kenya, Tanzania, India and other faraway lands. He spoke of a woman he met in Cambodia who worked back-to-back six-hour jobs each and every day to keep her children fed and sheltered. He showed a picture of two, young pre-teen kids walking on a beach in Mumbai who appeared as though they had nobody else on Earth looking after them.
“This picture still haunts me to this day,” he said.
The stories were as varied as the countries he visited, but all carried two common themes: People are people all over the world; they just want to provide for their families. And, even the smallest gestures of kindness, such as a $25-$50 microloan, can make a lasting difference in peoples’ lives.
The five most important words, Harris said, were, “You love more, you win.”
L-R: Bob Regnier, Ron Slepitza, JoAnn Field, Bob Hatch, S. Marie Joan Harris
Before Harris’ presentation, a one-hour panel discussion was held in the Whitfield Conference Room featuring Bank of Blue Valley President Bob Regnier, JoAnn Field, founder of KC Women Go Global and Bob Hatch, chairman of FINCA International, a microfinance institution. Like Harris, Regnier, Field and Hatch held a packed room enraptured with their explanations and stories about microfinance and helping poor people around the world out of impoverishment.
“If you want a more peaceful world, the way to promote it is to create financial independence throughout the world,” Regnier said.
About Avila University
Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.