Fourteen years ago, at the age of seven, Larry DiCara memorized the names of all the U.S. Presidents.
In fifth grade, when his teacher asked the class what would happen in the fall of 1960, DiCara jumped up and predicted that John F. Kennedy would be elected President.
Now DiCara, a senior at Harvard, is taking his first step into real-world, elective politics. He has started organizing a campaign which he hopes will put him on the Boston City Council. The election is in November, when DiCara will be a tender 22 years old.
But this is not DiCara's first election. He has been a political animal ever since his arrival at Boston Latin School, where he eventually won what he considers his most important election-Senior Class President. "I think he'd been campaigning since he got there in seventh grade," one classmate said Thursday.
DiCara's political career has not exactly been on the wane during his stay at Harvard. His name started appearing on ballots as soon as the Class of '71 arrived in Cambridge. He made it onto the Freshman Council, though losing the race for chairmanship to the class's other aspiring politician, John Hanify of HUC (Harvard Undergraduate Council) fame. Later, DiCara became a part of the HUC, SFAC (Student-Faculty Advisory Committee), and the Quincy House Committee, which he chaired his final year.
DiCara's style of politics is based on the ability to match names with faces. "Some people play football, some are good in chemistry, I can remember names," he explained a week ago. "I do have trouble with girls' names,"he admitted. To help him keep tabs on Harvard students, DiCara files all four freshman registers on a shelf in his Quincy room.
"At Boston Latin he knew everyone and their grandmother and aunt," classmate John Diodato recalled. And when driving through his Dorchester neighborhood Monday night, DiCara tooted and waved to young boys whom he could identify despite the darkness.
His knowledge of the Boston area, its people, and its politicians is encyclopedic. He's written detailed position papers on road construction and redistricting and knows which politicians represent each district in and around Boston. "I'm probably the only one in the room, and maybe the city, who knows the names of all the State Senators," DiCara mused while eating chile Monday in Quincy House Dining Hall.
It's hard to trace DiCara's political roots. "No one in my family ever did anything more political than vote," DiCara has said. His father recalls only that Larry was "never shy" with people.
Eventually, there were clear indications that DiCara was no ordinary Dorchester child. "I gave up on the funnies when I was ten or so, and I haven't read them since," DiCara said. Instead he read the news page. "Around fifth grade I discovered Jack K??nedy. For the next five years I ??ched his every move, his every ??."
??leanwhile, DiCara was getting ??t up by his school friends. He an???onized them by being the smart-??kid in the class. He was also guilty ?? being an Italian in an Irish neighborhood. Since then he has learned to honor the Irish. DiCara refers to his car as "green, Irish green."
"In 1961-62 I began to get the political bug bad," DiCara reminisced. "I liked the idea of being able to go around and have people say, 'Gee, that's Larry DiCara, and he's from Dorchester, and he's a pretty nice guy.'"
By that time he was at Boston Latin and wasn't getting beaten up as often. His political career was picking up steam, though he suffered from second thoughts for a while after John Kennedy was assassinated. "It was a real blow," DiCara said. "And then I started asking myself, 'Do you really want to get shot in the head?'"
But as the school elections came, one by one, DiCara kept entering and won most of the time. He was mastering his style of politics. "You couldn't get away from him; he was everywhere," one schoolmate asserted. "You could never walk by him without getting a big rap about how you were and all that bullishit."
DiCara amassed a number of activities there that made him undisputed Boston champion in the brag list competition. He built up a dependable constituency and attracted other support by appearing at all the football games as head water boy dressed in purple sneakers, socks, pants, sweater, and beret.