Guest blog post by Larry J. Beat, Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Department of Commerce’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
What a wonderful honor and opportunity it is to be featured for Hispanic Heritage Month 2020! My name is Larry J. Beat, but I go by my nickname, Jerry. I am the Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Department of Commerce’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Office of the Secretary. I came to OCR in November 2018. Prior to Commerce, I served as the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Director for the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and I’m very excited to be back at Commerce in this new role because this is also where I first started my career in 1992.
I was born and raised in Manhattan, Kansas until I was 12 and then Lancaster, Pennsylvania. My dad worked in agribusiness and was raised on a farm in Southern Kansas. My mom is Mexican American and was born into a large family in Waynoka, a small town in Northwestern Oklahoma. My Mom’s parents, my grandparents, were from Guanajuato Mexico, and came to the U.S. in the 1920s, after the Mexican Revolution. My grandfather worked on the Santa Fe Railroad and they settled in the railroad town of Waynoka. My grandparents didn’t speak a word of English, but relatives helped them navigate and thrive in their new country.
Coming from poverty, both of my parents were able to rise up and achieve many accomplishments. My Mom was the first in her family to go to college and she became a high school English teacher. My Mom particularly inspired me because she was fiercely proud of her Mexican heritage and shared the challenges she faced growing up as a person of color in a small, rural Oklahoma town, and later as a teacher of color. She strongly feels the importance of being proud of one’s culture and language which is something she passed on to me.
My love of my Mexican heritage prompted me to study Latin America as an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh. After college, I moved to Washington, D.C. in hopes of landing a job with an international focus. I thought the Federal government would offer lots of opportunities and I applied for a career ladder position in Commerce's Office of Civil Rights.
Within a few weeks, I was interviewed and offered the job! From there, I quickly moved up and have worked in more than 8 different agencies over the years including in leadership positions. I have worked in every specialty within the field of Equal Employment—EEO Counseling, investigations, formal complaints processing, Special Emphasis Programming, and affirmative employment. It’s an honor and a privilege to work in the field of equal employment opportunity, which is so important for our country and truly makes a difference to this agency. As the country's largest employer, the Federal Government has an obligation to be a model employer and to have a workforce that reflects the great diversity of this Nation.
Looking back on my life and career experiences, I feel very lucky for the relationships built over the years and the many people who have helped me along the way. When I chat about my career with folks who are new to the Federal government, I encourage them to get experience in as many different areas of their field as they can. Be curious! The more well-rounded you are, the more it improves your chances to move into a leadership role. Change can be both scary and hard. But sometimes it’s important to take that leap and broaden your experience in another area within your field or at another agency.
Hispanic Heritage Month is very important to me. It’s a time for me to honor my parents and grandparents. They made my life and career possible. They came here so their children could excel and thrive. I am the product of their hard work and sacrifice. Giving back to the Latino Community by supporting others on their journey over the years has been a great way to honor them.
I am proud to be Latino and half-Mexican American. My story is the American story. This month is when I honor my grandparents and Mom and reflect on how their story, her story, is my story, and the American story. How lucky I am to be able to promote Hispanic Heritage as part of my job!
Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce Hispanic employees in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15--October 15).