On October 16, a group of thirty international exchange students from various countries including China, Brazil, Jordan and Cape Verde visited the Massachusetts State House for a tour under the golden dome-where each student gained a chance to glance at elaborate mosaics, historical and memorial tributes.
The tour began at Doric Hall leading through to Memorial Hall and then to the Hall of Flags, ending in the House of Representatives Chamber. Students where excited to visit this momentous site as they walked the historic halls learning about various components of American Government, such as the legislative branch, the process of lawmaking and voting in the magnificent setting of the American state government.
Contrary to what many students have seen in their countries, the American legislative and government offices are always open to the public and the international students were granted the opportunity to meet and engage with various legislators in ways they have not done before. For international student Jia Yang the experience of visiting the state house was unlike anything she had ever experienced. "I'm from China, and our country's social system is socialist society...so we are not allowed to visit our legislature as ordinary people usually do" said Jia Yang.
"The officers of the state house welcomed us warmly. They even invited us to give some suggestions," said Yang who found the experience to be a great one. "It definitely made me feel free when I was there," added Yang.
The visit to the Massachusetts State House served a different purpose for each student. They were equally mesmerized and overjoyed to be on a trip so meaningful. However, their excitement derived from simply being in the extraordinary atmosphere. "I was deeply attracted by those excellent murals, I was surprised by the taste of being a state representative and I was moved by the stories behind your country's history," said Yang.
For other students is was the opportunity to actually be present at the state house, the state capitol and seat of government for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The opportunity to engage and ask questions to public officials after their presentations was also an unusual and unique aspect for students.
Elizabeth Clay, Director of Grassroots Governance and Commonwealth Corps in the office of Governor Deval Patrick, shared with the students ways they can become civically engaged through active volunteerism. "I was delighted to welcome the students to the Massachusetts State House and encourage them to become active members of their community while they are here," said Clay. "As we face challenging times, it is even more important to come together to solve community problems and never lose sight of each other...Massachusetts' college students whether they grew up around the corner or across the globe are important to the Commonwealth and have great energy and talent to share," Clay added.
"The presentation helped me to understand the history of American government," said international student Lifang Wang. "There is one thing that amazed me [which] is that students can do internships in the state house," said Wang. "That will never happen in China," Wang added.
Following the tour was a reception hosted by State Representative Walter F. Timilty, D-Milton where students were given an opportunity to ask questions and listen to words of reflections from legislative aides. Staff from the offices of State Representative Christine E. Canavan, D-Brockton, Linda Dorcena Forry, D-Dorchester, David Flynn, D-Bridgewater, Joyce Spiliotis, D-Peabody, as well as Governor Deval Patrick, joined in on the discussion.
Michael Mullen, a 2007 Bridgewater State College graduate and now chief-of-staff to State Representative Christine E. Canavan, D-Brockton reflected on how his experience as a student at Bridgewater has helped to greatly shape his work as an aide at the State House. "Bridgewater's strong focus on preparing students not only as global and analytical thinkers but also as civic-minded professionals in the 21st century has been extremely valuable to me. It's been one of the keys that has made my role so successful in working with my boss, Representative Canavan to advance the issues important to the people of Brockton, Easton and West Bridgewater," Mullen said.
Mullen, a graduate from the Political Science Department with an interdisciplinary minor in Civic Education and Community Leadership, also emphasized that this focus isn't only unique to the Political Science Department. "It's really the underlying mission of the entire college," he added.
Dan Sullivan, legislative aide for State Representative David L. Flynn, D-Bridgewater encouraged students on voting, speaking up and learning all that they can about the American government. "Next to your family and your faith, there is no aspect of life more significant or imperative to your happiness and the betterment of society and its future than your Government," shared Dan Sullivan.
"It is incumbent upon us all to engage ourselves in the great issues of the day, so that we may build the world we all aspire to live in. Stand up and be heard, discourse an debate ideas, and commit yourselves to lifelong participation in your government," Sullivan added. "I realize, as I said to the students, that so many of them have not the capacity to involve themselves in public life due to the constraints of their respected governments. Yet, the promise of America and the battle cry of the Founding Fathers and revolutionaries who fought for this great experiment were willing to give all to win the rights and principals we today enjoy. A government of the people, for the people, and by the people is not an easy one; you have to want it," added Sullivan.
The annual visit to the state house gives the international students an opportunity to see firsthand how American government operates according to Mary Delgado, assistant to the Vice President for external affairs. "I thought it was wonderful that Elizabeth Clay spoke to the students about community involvement as that is certainly something that Bridgewater State College focuses on," Delgado added.
State Representative Walter F. Timilty gave the students a private tour of the House of Representatives Chamber, where students sat in the seats of legislators and learned how the two legislative bodies conduct business, what roll call consists of and the process of voting. Representative Timilty also shared the important history of the "Scared Cod," which symbolizes the importance of the fishing industry in Massachusetts. "To sit on one of the representative's chairs made me so happy and excited me," said Yang.
"The group of students from Bridgewater State College were attentive, courteous, and very engaged during the tour of the House Chamber," shared Representative Walter Timilty. "It was a privilege to be able to interact with students from an up and coming state university such as Bridgewater State," Timilty added.
To learn more about what the students saw at the state house log on to http://www.sec.state.ma.us/trs/trsbok/trstour.htm for a virtual tour. To find out more information on volunteer opportunities and ways to become civically engaged log on to Governor Deval Patrick's Civic Engagement Blog at http://engage.blog.state.ma.us/ .
(Story by Sasha Link, Office of External Affairs)
Last Modified: December 9, 2009