How Jamaica’s Honorary Consul in Philadelphia Learned Rhetoric From Harvard Online

Published June 7, 2023

Courses Mentioned in this Post:  Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking


Our learners are the cornerstone of everything we do here at Harvard Online. Which is why we pride ourselves on receiving positive feedback from our learners following their course experience.

This is the story of our learner Christopher Chaplin, Jamaica’s Honorary Consul in Philadelphia, who completed our course Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking with Professor James Engell.

Graphic image from Rhetoric course

Graphic image from Module 1 of Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking 

Christopher represents his home country of Jamaica in Philadelphia and is the President of the Consular Corps Association and the Vice President of Portfolio Management
at Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation.

After completing his Rhetoric coursework, Christopher shared with us how he’s been implementing what he learned in his public-facing roles: 

“I recognized that I needed training in speech writing and public speaking and found your course online. It not only helped with these areas, but also honed my critical thinking and rhetorical skills.

As the recently elected President of the Consular Corps Association in Philadelphia, I was asked to deliver a message at a function recognizing Greece's 202nd year of Independence. I was able to change the content of my presentation, five minutes before the start, when new information was presented to me. I would not have been able to accomplish this pivot successfully without the skills gained from your course.”

We spoke with Christopher about his career journey and how his Harvard Online experience has helped him grow professionally.

Harvard Online (HO): Tell us a little bit about yourself, your educational background before Harvard Online, and your career.

Christopher Chaplin (CC): I was born in Kingston, Jamaica. I attended the University of the West Indies campus in Trinidad and Tobago where I earned a BSc in Industrial Engineering. I also earned an MBA from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

My career has primarily been in development banking/community development finance. I worked at Jamaica’s central bank, the Bank of Jamaica, and was seconded to the Export-Import Bank when it was started. After migrating to the United States, I worked at a variety of community development financial institutions in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. focused on getting capital to previously underserved communities.

I currently work for Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), a public-private partnership of the City of Philadelphia and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. I also sit on the Private Capital Oversight Committee of the Development Bank of Jamaica. The committee is focused on developing the policies and relationships for the development of the private equity and venture capital ecosystem in Jamaica.


HO: What drove you to initially want to enroll in an online course?

CC: In April 2019, the Government of Jamaica appointed me as the country’s Honorary Consul in Philadelphia. In this role, I represent Jamaica and Jamaicans in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. I was increasingly being called upon to deliver speeches to a variety of audiences and needed to develop my ability to both write and deliver speeches on short notice.


HO: Is there anything about online learning that surprised you?

CC: The course was the second online course that I had completed with the first being a project management course by a banking industry association (which I did not enjoy). I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the Rhetoric course and in retrospect, the videos of the speeches enhanced my enjoyment. I plan to do the course a second time to make sure the concepts and lessons remain fresh.


HO: What’s one notable lesson that you learned from Rhetoric?

CC: For me, the course was particularly effective because it analyzed the speeches of prominent leaders from different political backgrounds. I had listened to the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan previously and had enjoyed them and was therefore happy to learn from them. However, it was Charlton Heston’s speech that held the important lesson of the use of imagery to defend or promote a position.


HO: How can you see the skills that you gained from completing Rhetoric helping you in your career in the future?

CC: I have made use of the lessons learned in the course in several significant presentations (like the speech prefaced in the above introduction). I believe that the course will continue to help me to speak effectively and deliver messages at events related to my diplomatic service.


HO: What’s one piece of advice about online learning that you would give to the Harvard Online community?

CC: Learn at your own pace and most importantly, have fun doing it. 

To learn more about Christopher’s work, follow him on LinkedIn. To learn more about our Rhetoric course or to register for the course, check out the course page here.

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