Media Center

Press Release


  May 5, 2007

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today received an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of South Florida (USF), in recognition of his efforts to promote peace, prosperity and democracy in the region, as well as for his commitment to Latin America and the Caribbean and his leadership of the organization that brings together 34 nations of the Western Hemisphere.

In accepting his first honorary degree during the university’s commencement ceremony in Tampa, Secretary General Insulza told the Class of 2007 that the policies of cooperation and mutual understanding between societies in the Americas are more necessary and urgent than ever, considering that “our cultures, economies and ways of life become more related as the ever-growing process of trade, communications and migration push us closer together.”

“We are living in 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 Secretary General told a crowd of over 10,000 attending the ceremony. He added that the challenge is to make “this growth permanent and these democracies more stable, just, and consistent.” This can be achieved by reducing poverty, violence and crime and improving the environment, he explained, adding that “all this we can only do in an atmosphere of constructive cooperation among all the countries of the Americas.”

The keynote speaker also shared several guiding principles with the graduates. “Do good in the world and be good to everyone—be brave, be persistent and true to yourself and your community,” Insulza advised. He told the soon-to-be alumni that “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.”

In announcing the honorary degree, USF President Judy Genshaft had described the Secretary General as “a towering presence in the Americas and a champion of democracy,” adding that “it is an honor to be able to build a relationship between USF and this outstanding leader and educator as we welcome him into USF’s global community.”

“José Miguel Insulza represents the best in the tradition of the scholar-statesman in the region and a new look in the regional diplomacy of peace and development,” said Jorge Nef, director of the USF Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The head of the University’s International Affairs Center, Dean Maria Crummett, who hosted a reception in honor of the Secretary General at the USF Contemporary Art Museum, also praised Insulza’s accomplishments, saying that his “policies for the Americas represent a new era in the region where dialogue and cooperation, with an emphasis on democracy, social integration, human rights and security, are integral components of economic growth.”

This is the second award Insulza has received this week. On Wednesday, he was given the Council of the Americas’ 2007 Chairman’s Award for Leadership in the Americas, in recognition of his efforts to promote democracy, peace, justice and development in the region. The Chairman of the prestigious organization, William Rhodes, honored the Secretary General at a ceremony held at the State Department, as part of the 37th Annual Washington Conference on the Americas.

José Miguel Insulza, a Chilean citizen, was elected OAS Secretary General in 2005. He has a long history of public service. Under the presidency of Patricio Aylwin, Insulza served as Chile’s Ambassador for International Cooperation, Director of Multilateral Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Vice President of the International Cooperation Agency.

During President Eduardo Frei’s administration, Insulza became Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs and was later appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 1999, he became Minister Secretary General of the Presidency, and the following year President Ricardo Lagos’ Minister of the Interior and Vice President of the Republic. When he left that post in May 2005, he had served as a government minister for more than a decade, the longest continuous tenure for a minister in Chilean history.

The University of South Florida is among the nation’s top 63 public research universities and one of 76 “community engaged” universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It offers more than 200 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialty and doctoral levels and serves over 44,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland.

Reference: E-119/07