Fordham honors Jesuit-educated Aquino

Atenean all the way. Photos by Elton Lugay

By Elton Lugay

President Benigno Aquino III was conferred a doctor of laws degree by Fordham University for his “long-standing” ties with the Jesuits and for his commitment to good governance.

Aquino had been an Atenean from grade school through college. Like Ateneo, Fordham is run by the Jesuit order.

“The Society of Jesus has a distinguished history in the Philippines. It is with delight compounded that we celebrate today our ties to, and history with, the people of the Philippines,” said Fordham President Joseph McShane, SJ in his welcome remarks. “When President Aquino accepts his honorary degree, he may be assured that the honor is ours.”

In response, Aquino said: “Into these steps have been carved the names of the heads of state upon whom your university has bestowed honorary doctorates. These names include seven of my predecessors, including that of my mother.”

“To my countrymen, and those of good will to all Filipinos, it is with great pride that I say: you have made us proud. You make me proud for you have remained true to yourselves. Whether at home or abroad, the Filipino stands for something. By holding fast to democracy, by working mightily for reform, it can well and truly be said, there is no corner of the world where a Filipino cannot hold their head high,” he continued his speech delivered at Keating Hall.

There were mixed reactions to his speech. Some felt it was delivered hurriedly with little emotion. Others thought the message was heartfelt.

“As a Filipino raised in Manila residing in New York, President Aquino’s address was reassuring. His firm and authoritative tone to fight corruption gives us Filipinos living and studying abroad who have always wanted to give back that the Philippines is on track to progress,” Michael Alberto, a business student at Fordham told The FilAm.

“I was surprised by the hundreds of people that showed up—both students and non-students. Overall, PNoy’s presence in Fordham University definitely gave a voice to the prominent but often bypassed Filipino American community in New York City,” he added.

Ryan Tajonera, who skipped work just to listen to the president, his fellow Atenean said, “I am truly happy for him. Having lived in New York for 11 years, cheering for the president was an opportunity for me to repay my debt of gratitude to our nation’s heroes of freedom – the late Senator Ninoy and President Cory. I sincerely wish more power, progress and unity to all Filipinos everywhere.”

The president concluded his speech by saying he looked forward to a new Philippines with an effort for creating a transparent relationship between the people and their government.

“Let no one doubt that where the citizenry is unafraid to take its leaders to task, and who participate in nation-building, there you have a nation of empowered citizens cognizant of why government exists. And that is to alleviate the suffering of our countrymen. By means of being empowered, our fellow citizens will not only identify the problems we face, but will commit to being part of the solution, and by so doing, seize the better future we all deserve.”

FilAms enjoy the afternoon chill at Fordham's Keating Hall.

Prior to the conferment ceremony, Aquino was escorted to the steps bearing the name of President Corazon Aquino at the Terrace of the Presidents. His late mother received her honorary degree in September 1986.

Based on the Fordham tradition, the names of over 30 world leaders conferred a degree are carved on the steps of the ‘Terrace of the Presidents’ at Keating Hall.” Aquino’s name was carved next to that of his mother’s.

Elton Lugay is a journalist, publicist and community events organizer.


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