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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

State Rep Commends Community Service

The head of the Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives dropped by UMass Boston the week of April 9 to extol the virtue and value of community service.

Speaking to a crowd of staff and students, many of whom have been involved in community service, State Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford) explained that community service starts at home.

Cabral immigrated into the United States when he was fourteen and was part of a large family that included seven sisters. At his house there used to be “reading out loud” sessions, which would draw many of the older people who didn’t know how to read or write.

“The whole neighborhood used to come together three or four times a week,” he said. “That was community service.”

His father gave back once a year to the parish, he said, and he was the first person to read at Mass after the Vatican II reforms in the 1960s.

The UMass Dartmouth graduate also used to tutor bilingual students in his local school system. “I didn’t tutor math, that’s why I became a politician,” he said, eliciting laughter from the small crowd gathered in the chancellor’s conference room.

Towards the end of Cabral’s college years, he got involved in a movement in New Bedford aimed at getting Portuguese-Americans involved in politics, of which he became president. There, as well as at other organizations he was a part of, he learned how to run a meeting and lead organizations. “I knew how to do that before I served in the Legislature,” he said.

For those interested in grassroots organizing, Cabral recommended political activism. “You shouldn’t graduate from college without participating in one political campaign,” he said. “The process of organizing is the same.”

Young people in general could be a powerful force if they voted, he said, adding that 18- to 24-year-olds make up seventeen percent of the vote. “So who do you think the attention goes to?”

“It’s a give and take business,” he said of community service. “When you give, you always get something back.”

Cabral cited his participation in Michael Dukakis’ 1982 gubernatorial campaign as an example, which he called “one of the great experiences of my life.” There he learned how to run a grassroots organization. Twenty years later, Dukakis recommended him for a conference on reforming German immigration policy.

“That’s what I mean in getting something back,” he said. “Eventually, you get something back.”

Cabral, a former teacher, told students to think in five-year increments. “You’re never going to be doing, twenty years down the line, what you went to school for,” he said.

The initial education is key to jumping into a whole new profession, if needed, he said. “It’s about learning and adapting.”

The event, which was Cabral’s first visit as a speaker, was put together by the Office of Service Learning and Community Outreach and the Beyond Our Backyard Service Club, which was celebrating its inaugural year as UMass Boston’s “first service club.”