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    Rug company founder speaks to new citizens

    LAND OF THE FREE: Mahmud Jafri was a fitting choice to speak at a ceremony during which more than 350 people from 35 nations were sworn in as US citizens at Faneuil Hall in Boston last month. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the Dover resident was standing in their place.

    Jafri, who is the founder and chief executive officer of Dover Rug & Home in Natick, left his native Pakistan at age 20 to study at UCLA in 1974, and became a US citizen in the late 1980s.

    He recalled that after his own naturalization ceremony, he immediately registered to vote.


    “For people like me who come from developing and Third World countries, personal freedoms are not taken for granted,” he noted.

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    Since that time, Jafri has become a staunch advocate for immigration reform through the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. He received the 2013 Immigrant Entrepreneur Award from the Immigrant Learning Center, where he serves on the board of directors, and was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Refugees and Immigrants.

    According to Jafri, last month’s ceremony was an “emotional and amazing experience.” He said many new citizens asked to pose for photographs with him and presiding US Judge Frank J. Bailey, proudly holding their certificates and waving American flags. One man, he noted, even wore a tuxedo for the occasion.

    In his speech, Jafri discussed how the American dream is “still alive and well.”

    “As long as you bring hard work, integrity, and honesty to the table,” he said, “there is no reason success won’t come your way.”


    FUND-RAISING FLING: Twenty-eight years later, Barbara Shapiro (right) still recalls the moment she reached her breaking point while juggling the demands of raising two children under age 3 with a high-pressure job in software development — not to mention the simple advice that changed her career and life.

    Shapiro recalled, “I said to my mother, ‘If I’m not playing at being superwoman anymore, I don’t know who I am.’ My mother answered with the question, ‘If you had one year to live, how would you want to spend it?’ The answer: write a novel and spend more time with my children. And that’s exactly what I did. Smart mother.”

    Since that time, Shapiro has written six novels, one nonfiction book, and four screenplays. On March 29, she will discuss her latest novel, “The Art Forger,” during the 18th annual Spring Fling at the Newton Free Library.

    Honorary chairman Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR’s “On Point,” will deliver opening remarks before fellow Newton resident and perennial host William Novak introduces Shapiro and another featured author, his son B.J. Novak (right). The actor, screenwriter, director, and stand-up comedian best known for his work on an Emmy Award-winning show, “The Office,” recently published his first book, “One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories.”

    Shapiro, who lives in South Boston, said she will discuss how she came to write her thriller, a New York Times bestseller, about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist.


    She also hopes to have a say in the Newton event’s schedule.

    “Who wants to be on with a comedian?” she quipped. “I need to make sure I go first.”

    Spring Fling, which begins at 6:30 p.m., also includes live music, hors d’oeuvres and desserts by Bakers’ Best, and a silent auction. Tickets cost $125, with proceeds benefiting the purchase of library materials. For more information, call 617-796-1407 or visit www.newtonfreelibrary.net.

    EMERGING ARTIST: Concord native Sam Sadtler (below) is among 15 artists who have been honored by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ VSA Emerging Young Artists Program. The 25-year-old received a $10,000 first prize for his photographic pairing, “Delicacy of a Can Opener” and “Elegance of a Knife.”

    The artwork was entered in a national juried exhibition, “Sustaining/Creating,” for artists 16 to 25 years old with disabilities. The show features paintings, sculptures, photography, and other media.

    Sadtler, who now lives in Rochester, N.Y., said dyslexia has given him an appreciation for a range of learning styles and wide breadth of interests and experiences.

    “Art allowed me to enter a space that I wasn’t challenged in, something that I could do as well as anyone else,” said Sadtler, who uses old electronics to create photos, videos, and installation pieces around themes of technological waste and the timeless elements of household appliances.

    “I’m glad the Kennedy Center and VSA are supporting artists with disabilities,” he added, “but I just want [the show] to be about the artwork.”

    The exhibition, which is on a seven-city tour, is on display at the VSA Massachusetts Open Door Gallery, 89 South St. in Boston, through April 16.

    For more information, visit www.vsamass.org and www.samsadtler.com.

    CHANGING THE WORLD: Nancy Kaufman, chief executive officer of the New York-based National Council of Jewish Women, will present the 11th annual Connie Spear Birnbaum Memorial Lecture on March 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Elohim, 10 Bethel Road in Wellesley.

    Kaufman, a former resident of Brookline and Swampscott who served as executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston for 20 years, will discuss how women have brought about change in Jewish life and the world at large.

    Sponsored by the Newton-based Synagogue Council of Massachusetts, the lecture is free. A dinner with Kaufman at 5:30 p.m. costs $40. Register for both events at www.synagoguecouncil.org.

    HAVING A BALL: As a lifelong soccer player and fan, Jennifer Swain of Concord has long advocated for the sport among her family and friends. Now she is taking her support on the road as one of this season’s New England Rev Girls, the official promotional team for the New England Revolution professional soccer organization.

    The Rev Girls attend Revolution home matches at Gillette Stadium, as well as fund-raisers and other events throughout New England.

    Swain, a junior majoring in politics at Brandeis University, said she is looking forward to cheering on the team from a different vantage point.

    “Soccer gets overlooked a lot of times, but it’s an exciting, fast-paced, fun sport to watch,” she said. “If you give it a chance, you’ll really enjoy it.”

    The Revolution’s first home game is 2 p.m. Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

    People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cindy-cantrell20@gmail.com.