Media Center



May 5, 2007 - Tampa, Florida

President Genshaft, distinguished Faculty and Staff, members of the Class of 2007, Families and Friends of the graduates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Receiving this degree is a singular honor for me, which I accept with deep humility and gratitude. I see it not only as a personal achievement but also as a testimony of the importance that this University, one of the largest of this great country, assigns to the promotion of democracy, development and integration in the Americas. This state, and USF in particular, work to create every day stronger links to Latin America and the Caribbean, as more and more people from this region become members of your society.

These are crucial years for hemispheric relations. Some say that the US is not paying enough attention to its own hemisphere; but there are realities that go beyond policy considerations and even political will. The links between our societies are every time more multiple as exchanges grow and the population trends show us that the Hispanic population of the US today is one of the largest in the world. This is reflects in our daily lives in all our countries, as our cultures, economies and ways of life become more related, as the ever growing processes of trade, communications and migration push us closer together. That is why the policies of cooperation ad mutual understanding that many of us have promoted in this region for so many decades, are today more necessary and urgent than ever.

The Organization of American States is the oldest political organization in the world, It represents all the countries in the hemisphere and was mainly designed to promote cooperation in the Americas, for the expansion of democracy, development and security throughout the region. We are living a time in which these goals seem within reach for us. After decades of stagnation and having left behind prolonged periods of authoritarian rule, our region is growing more consistently and has more democracy than ever in its history. The challenge that we must face now it to make this growth permanent and these democracies more stable and consistent. We will achieve this if we reduce the poverty and inequality that still affects over two hundred million in this hemisphere, if we reduce violence and crime in our societies; if we improve our environment and face the challenge of global warming: and all this we can only do in an atmosphere of constructive cooperation among all the countries of the Americas.

All this the Americas can do together, this University of Southern Florida understands these challenges and that is the reason for my presence here today.

To those of you graduating today, I want to say, CONGRATULATIONS! You have worked long and hard toward this day and you deserve to be celebrated for your achievements.

The college years are probably the best in ones life. At least that is my experience and I am sure that most of you share these same feelings. That is why the satisfaction of graduating is always accompanied by a certain feeling of incertainty about the future, the challenges ahead and how we want to lead the next years of our lives. But this outstanding University has prepared you well to pursue your dreams. You may not realize it, but you have already exhibited considerable capabilities in getting into and now graduating from college. Many of you came here from other countries, states and cities and figured out how to become a successful member of the USF family. You must be confident that you are ready for the challenges that lay ahead.

But individual success should not be enough. Success also includes enjoying what you do. You are your best self when you are staying true to your beliefs and pursue your own dreams, but also when you do your best to serve well your country, your society and your community. You have been given the resources for the best individual achievements. And it is your choice if you want to use those skills only for that or also use them to help improve the world. The biggest paradox of our time is that we have so much, so much knowledge, so many resources, so much capacity to improve the life of human beings, while we still have so much violence, so much poverty and so much environmental deterioration. The world has reached a point in which, with over six and a half billion people living in it, it has to find better ways to live together in peace and to improve the quality of life for everybody. If knowledge is the real key to improve society, those who have completed college education should also be able to lead our communities and the hemisphere to a better life for all.

Do good in the world and be good to everyone – be brave, be persistent and true to yourself and your community, to strangers, colleagues, friends and family. You will find your life in this world much more rewarding. Class of 2007, today is your day. Congratulations and good luck.
And to the distinguished faculty of USF, thank you once again for your warm welcome and the honor that you have bestowed upon me today.

Thank you.