In my second week on the internship, I had some equally interesting experiences. Monday June 11th was the beginning of the national Portugese-American heritage month, and in Massachusetts, June 11th in the statewide celebration day of Portugese-Americans and their heritage. If this surprises you, don’t sweat it- I had no idea either! When I got to the statehouse that morning, I could tell something was different. There was a lot of people all over the state house steps, a ton of people in uniform and many of the people high up in the state government such as the Lt. Governor were there as well. To my surprise, not only were there a lot of people out and about on the statehouse lawn, the president of Portugal and his delegation were being given a red carpet ceremonial welcome to Massachusetts that morning.
After I put my stuff down that morning, I went to the house chamber to see the president of Portugal, Mr. Manuel de Souza, give a speech to kick of the Portugese-American heritage month. He was a pretty powerful speaker- his English was great and he spoke in great length about the history of the diplomatic and cultural relationship between Portugal and the United States, quickly getting rid of his prepared speech after a minute or two to make sure that what he was saying was “from the heart.” It was good to hear that a country abroad still held a high esteem for the United States, its culture, government, and way of life, even in this age where a narrative of disdain and resentment supposedly dominates perspectives on the United States in European countries. A progressive, he made mild references to the danger of populism, as he said it distorts the true perspectives of the populous. I’m not sure whether this was a direct stab at President Trump, but the very liberal Massachusetts legislators gave a round of applause for it anyway. He talked much about early Massachusetts history as well, and thanked Massachusetts for being the seed and birthplace of modern democracy, that in the last three hundred years, has spread throughout the world and accompanied widespread political freedoms, tolerance, respect for human rights and cultural exchange.
At first I wondered, what is the Portugese president doing sitting in the Massachusetts house of Representatives- why isn’t he speaking in front of the US congress or meeting with the president while he is here? Turns out that those were not the objectives of his visit to the US. Apparently, of the 1.5 million Portugese-Americans living in the US, 700,000 of them live in Massachusetts. Also, Portugal was the first country to recognize American Independence from Great Britain-pretty cool. I will attach a photo from his speech that I took