BOSTON — Proclaiming a "multilateral world" and prescribing one way to keep populists from power, the president of Portugal on Monday announced an agreement between institutions in his nation and the University of Massachusetts.
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa visited the State House for a celebration of Portuguese-American heritage and spoke to dignitaries and Bay State residents in the House chamber.
"Nobody lives alone in the world. This is a multilateral world, not a unilateral world. That's the way it is," de Sousa said during his remarks.
The memorandum will be between UMass Dartmouth and five major universities in Portugal, according to a Portuguese government official. Another memorandum will form an agreement between UMass Dartmouth's Portuguese center and a diplomatic institute in Portugal.
The agreement concerns student and faculty exchanges, according to UMass Dartmouth, which said the compact stems from a trip that UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert Johnson took to Portugal in February.
"UMass Dartmouth is honored to be the preeminent university in America dedicated to the study, teaching, and sharing of knowledge related to the Portuguese-American experience," Johnson said in a statement. "The economic and cultural bonds between our university, our region, and the Portuguese-speaking world are vast, strong, and filled with even greater potential."
Noting how Azoreans had migrated to Massachusetts after a natural disaster half a century ago, de Sousa said Portugal has welcomed migrants from North Africa and the Middle East.
"I cannot understand how one can have its own people migrating and not accept other people migrating," de Sousa said, touching on a subject that has been a live wire in American politics.
Gov. Charlie Baker greeted de Sousa on red carpet at the bottom of the State House steps on Beacon Street, and also issued a proclamation declaring June Portuguese American Heritage Month. Baker has previously hosted the leaders of Cape Verde, Armenia and Ireland, according to his office.
Ties over centuries
Massachusetts and Portugal have bonds that span the centuries. The program for the ceremony credited Portuguese explorer Miguel Corte with venturing up the Taunton River in 1511, more than 100 years before the English settlements that established Plymouth and Boston. Massachusetts and the coastal European nation are separated by thousands of miles of the Atlantic Ocean.
Senate President Harriette Chandler said that Massachusetts has "little pieces of Portugal" around the state, such as a major feast in New Bedford. There are about 750,000 people of Portuguese heritage in the Bay State, according to de Sousa.
"We are neighbors," de Sousa told the audience. He said that Portugal recognized America's independence early even though it was allied with Britain.
The Portuguese president's visit took place hours before the high-stakes summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Signapore on Tuesday.
Taunton Sen. Marc Pacheco said de Sousa arrived in Boston after swimming in the Azores on Sunday morning. The president traveled to Providence and back and departed from his security to greet the public after a speech, Pacheco said.
"He ignored the secret service and he decided to walk right through the crowd —thousands of people there," Pacheco said, introducing the president as someone who has worked as a journalist and professor.
The 69-year-old head of state announced that he would give his remarks off the cuff and appeared to respond to Pacheco's anecdote.
"How can a president not be close with the people? How? Legitimacy comes from the people. But the people is not an abstract idea. The people have names. They have names. They have faces," de Sousa said. "The only way of avoiding populists is being close to the people."
The president is a "largely ceremonial figure" with a few key powers including the ability to dissolve parliament and fire the prime minister, according to Reuters, which reported on the center-right politician's January 2016 election.
The Portuguese barque Sagres, which is nerely 90 yards long, was docked in Boston for Portugal Day on Sunday and remained in the port on Monday where the UMass Dartmouth chancellor joined Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa for a signing of the agreements.