Dignitaries dedicate campus’s renovated Matsui Center

The newly renovated Robert T. Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service was the focus Tuesday (March 13) of a special dedication attended by students, faculty and state dignitaries who lauded the center’s work promoting public service, policy research and education in the name of the late California Congressman Robert T. Matsui.

Thanks to a $150,000 donation from the Robert T. Matsui Foundation for Public Service, the Matsui Center in Moses Hall has roughly doubled its physical size, added a group study room for up to 24 undergraduates, and created a working office for distinguished visitors to the Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) and the Matsui Center.

The center engages UC Berkeley undergraduates in politics, public policy and public service through internship programs, the presence of distinguished visitors on campus, and public events. More than 100 students have participated in Washington, D.C., Sacramento or Bay Area internship programs established by the center, which is a component of the IGS, California’s oldest public policy research center.

IGS director and UC Berkeley political science professor Jack Citrin said the facility renovations help raise the center’s profile and expand ongoing programming that exposes UC Berkeley undergraduates to the real world of politics.

Citrin also called the center a “fitting and ongoing legacy” for the late Robert T. Matsui, a widely respected member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 26 years who died in 2005.

Matsui Center Director Ethan Rarick welcomed Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), who was elected to Congress after the 2005 death of her husband, and escorted her around the center’s remodeled spaces before she addressed an audience in the IGS Library.

Congresswoman Doris Matsui and Matsui Center Director Ethan Rarick inspect the new undergraduate student group study area. Photo by Peg Skorpinski.

 “Today the Matsui Center takes on the mantle of this work by promoting political engagement and participation, and encouraging more of our young people to action,” she said.

While much current political discourse is marked by divisiveness, Doris Matsui said her husband maintained an unshakeable belief in the goodness of government and the people who serve in it. She called on the Matsui Center to “help foster the type of civility and open discourse that are the basis for good politics and good government.”

Both Matsuis graduated from UC Berkeley, and Doris Matsui noted her husband’s special fondness for the campus.  She recalled a November 1997 visit he made to participate in an IGS student-faculty roundtable, a graduate class at the Goldman School of Public Policy and two undergraduate lectures, before ending the day with a meeting with the chancellor.

 “Bob (Matsui) made time for these visits,” she said, “he cared about these visits, because he knew he was making investments in the future leaders who are students here.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Goodwin Liu, an associate justice of the California Supreme Court and a former UC Berkeley professor of law who interned in Robert Matsui’s Sacramento office the summer after graduating from high school.

Liu called Matsui a “serious policy wonk” whose legislative achievements included the 1988 redress bill for Japanese Americans interned during World War II, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and other work reflected in his papers, which were donated to The Bancroft Library in 2005.

“Bob understood that effective public servants have to have substance, and the rigorous scholarship and teaching facilitated by the Matsui Center will promote that core value,” Liu said.

Others attending the program included California State Controller John Chiang and representatives of numerous California Congressional members.

The Matsui Center was founded in 2008, after being proposed by Bruce Cain, former IGS director and now the executive director of the UC Washington Center, and championed by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, said Doris Matsui.

The Matsui Foundation promotes public service careers for recent college and law school graduates.