by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org
It has become an increasingly prestigious honor to address the graduating classes of the U.S’s top universities at commencement every June. In the past decade alone, Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, Condoleezza Rice, Sandra Day O’Connor, Steve Jobs, Tom Brokaw, Oprah Winfrey and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Anthony Kennedy have delivered commencement speeches to graduating classes.
Yesterday, President Felipe Calderon joined the ranks of notables who have delivered the Commencement address at Stanford University. “President Calderón assumed office at one of the most challenging times in the history of his nation, and is a respected foreign leader who has been involved in public service and advocacy for his entire life,” said Stanford University President John Hennessy. “He is committed to finding solutions to a number of national and global problems, ranging from combating drug cartels to comprehensive immigration reform and arms control. His views on a life devoted to solving pressing problems and to improving society will be particularly meaningful to our graduates, as will his experience leading a nation so vitally intertwined with the future of California and the United States.”
Jeff Wachtel, Senior Assistant to the President of the Board of Trustees, said that the senior class presidents viewed Calderón’s selection as a timely one. “Right now, we believe, is a very significant time in relations between the U.S. and Mexico, particularly California and Mexico,” Wachtel said. “We feel that Calderón, drawing from his experiences in public policy, can give a very powerful speech to us as an outgoing world leader to future world leaders.”
The selection, per usual, dis not come without controversy. While many seniors were appreciative of the opportunity to hear words of wisdom from such a prominent political figure, others objected to Calderón’s invitation based on how he has conducted policy in his country, particularly his deployment of troops to drug-trafficking regions in Mexico.“There’s always some negative reaction to every speaker we select,” Wachtel said. “The amount of reaction varies. Even someone as popular as Oprah had some negative reaction.”
Putting aside politics, Calderón related to the graduating class in terms that transcended current affairs, urging students to “do what so many said was impossible.” Stanford President John Hennessy told the crowd that Calderón had listened in class as his peers described their modest ambitions, while Calderón announced that he was one day going to be “president of the republic.” He achieved that goal in 2006, when he was 44 years old, in the party his father helped found.
“Many among you will be successful men and women, lawyers and writers,” Calderón said. “But beyond becoming a great doctor or engineer, the key to life is to graduate as a human being.”