SMITHFIELD, R.I. - George H.W. Bush delivered an optimistic commencement address at Bryant University yesterday, telling about 750 graduating seniors that "seeing you all of you . . . only reaffirms my optimism in my country's future."
The former president and father of the current commander in chief said he does not believe in the pessimistic talk because the United States is the greatest nation on the earth.
He urged the graduates to contribute to the overall well-being of the country. He also urged the students to strive for morality after graduation, saying character matters as much as knowledge.
Before delivering Bryant's commencement address, Bush, a former US liaison to China, spoke at an unveiling of a tabletop model of a famous Beijing palace. Bryant's US-China Institute is trying to raise enough money to build a life-size replica of the Shu Fang Zhai hall on its campus.
At Simmons College in Boston, human rights activist Bianca Jagger criticized President George W. Bush for what she called an erosion of civil liberties under his administration.
"What is most disturbing about Bush's philosophy is his belief that civil liberties can become subject to cancellation in times of crisis, in contradiction to the Constitution that seeks to protect rights the founding fathers deemed inalienable," said the former model, actress, and wife of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger.
She called the Iraq war "immoral, illegal, and unwinnable," and urged graduates to "help sustain life on earth, with all its beauty and diversity, and to speak up for peace and justice between the world's peoples and countries."
At Babson College, Myles Brand, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, told graduates that the secret to happiness is not money or a career. "I have a message for you that is vital to your happiness: Treat others with respect and compassion. In doing so you will make a moral difference," he said.
Dr. Tenley Albright urged Springfield College graduates not to be afraid of trying new things.
The surgeon and blood plasma researcher won a gold medal in figure skating in the 1956 Winter Olympics after overcoming polio.
"Remember," Albright said, "as you build your stories through your experiences, that the sweet is sweeter for the bitter, even though it may not be until we get to that sweeter side to appreciate that."