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IOP Conference Blends Politics With Service

By Dafna V.hochman

In this day and age, politicians are often stereotyped as greedy, selfish individuals who neglect the ideals of community service once in office.

The Institute of Politics (IOP) tried to dispel that popular characterization Saturday through a day-long conference, "Public Policy and Community Service: A Partnership," which explored the working relationship between government policies and community service ventures.

The series of speakers, workshops and panel discussions kicked off with a keynote address by Robert Lewis Jr., the executive director of CityYear Boston, a non-profit organization that brings young volunteers from across the country to work in Boston's innercity communities as teachers and community organizers.

Lewis stressed his belief that community service and public policy are a two-way street.

"Not only does service affect the government but the government can greatly aid and influence service endeavors," said William F. Abely '99, chair of the IOP conference committee and organizer of the conference.

Following the address, students chose among workshops dealing with issues such as health care, the environment and education.

The workshops were led by an array of student and community leaders. Among the students panelists were Roy E. Bahat '98, president of the Phillips Brooks House Association; Rebecca D. Onie '98-'97, director of Project HEALTH, and Elizabeth DeBra, a firstyear doctoral student at the Graduate School of Education.

Gaston Caperton, the former governor of West Virginia who revamped the state's education system despite voter opposition, led a workshop on education at the conference.

"[Caperton] was willing to stick with what he believed as right despite being one of the most unpopular governors," said Abigail L. Hing '98. "He really saw what needed to get done and then did it, regardless of its implications."

Dr. Bill Walczak, a member of the final panel, at age 19 became director of the Codman Square Health Center, widely regarded as Dorchester's first community revitalization group. He urged politicians to ignore their "paranoia of public image" and to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

The conference stressed student involvement in both public policy and community service. More than 50 students--nearly all undergraduates from Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University and Wellesley College--participated.

Most of the students said the conference inspired them to get involved at the grass-roots level.

"[It is] important that...the ideas people discuss on a theoretical level interact with what people are doing in communities," said Aziz F. Rana '00

"[Caperton] was willing to stick with what he believed as right despite being one of the most unpopular governors," said Abigail L. Hing '98. "He really saw what needed to get done and then did it, regardless of its implications."

Dr. Bill Walczak, a member of the final panel, at age 19 became director of the Codman Square Health Center, widely regarded as Dorchester's first community revitalization group. He urged politicians to ignore their "paranoia of public image" and to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

The conference stressed student involvement in both public policy and community service. More than 50 students--nearly all undergraduates from Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University and Wellesley College--participated.

Most of the students said the conference inspired them to get involved at the grass-roots level.

"[It is] important that...the ideas people discuss on a theoretical level interact with what people are doing in communities," said Aziz F. Rana '00

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