May 16, 2009
DALLAS (SMU) — Former First Lady Laura Bush gave the commencement address at Southern Methodist University on Saturday, telling the more than 1,900 degree recipients that "you won’t waste your talent and education if you use them in service to others."
Interrupted numerous times by applause from the crowd that packed SMU's Moody Coliseum, she said, "As much as any generation of Americans, the Class of 2009 is tasked with resolving challenges that lie far beyond your doorstep, even far beyond America’s borders.
"Between cellphones and the Internet, you have a world of information literally at your fingertips. And because our world is so small, you can’t ignore the genocide in Darfur or the recent brutal treatment of democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma. You know the plight of children orphaned by AIDS in Africa. Today begins a period of incredible liberty and adventure, a time to find your calling and to demand the most of life before life makes specific demands on you," she said during a speech that lasted about 14 minutes.
Mrs. Bush said that when she graduated from SMU in 1968 with a Bachelor's degree in elementary education, she never expected to one day be on the Board of Trustees or that she would give the Commencement address. However, she said, her experiences at SMU had prepared her for the unexpected turns her life had taken and she was "so happy to be joining each one of you for this very special day."
"The bonds formed at SMU are strong, and no matter how many years you’ve been away, I hope that you'll find, like I have, that coming back to SMU feels like coming home. That is why I am so happy that George and I will spend the rest of our lives working here on the SMU campus at the Bush Library and Institute," she said.
Since her husband, President George W. Bush, left office in January, Mrs. Bush has remained actively involved in national and global issues, with an emphasis on education, health care and human rights.
As First Lady, she made a historic trip to Afghanistan in 2005 to witness the progress achieved by the Afghan people after the fall of the Taliban regime. She visited the Women's Teacher Training Institute in Kabul, which is preparing women to lead classrooms that girls were once forbidden to enter. Mrs. Bush's involvement in Afghanistan began in 2001, when she delivered a weekly radio address to call attention to the plight of women and children.
Also during Saturday's Commencement, the University's 94th, SMU conferred honorary degrees upon best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith, Yale Divinity School Dean Harold W. Attridge and Dance Theater of Harlem co-founder Arthur Mitchell.
Saturday marked the first time SMU’s graduating class had worn red and blue robes, representing SMU’s school colors, instead of the traditional black.
After the University-wide Commencement, SMU's schools and departments held individual ceremonies to honor graduates. SMU enrolls nearly 12,000 students in seven degree-granting colleges and schools.
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