George Bush, 41st president of the United States, will speak
at the undergraduate afternoon diploma ceremony May 22.
The Yale University graduate and former adjunct professor of business at Rice University will be paying his second visit to the university since his 1988 election. Bush was the keynote speaker at the Commemoration Day ceremonies celebrating the School of Medicine's centennial in 1990.
At that ceremony, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, despite the protest of an estimated 200 demonstrators who gathered outside Levering and Shriver halls to denounce his administration's healthcare policies. In what was perhaps an oblique reference to those protesters, Bush used that opportunity to laud American medicine, but warned that a crisis in malpractice litigation was making America's doctors afraid to do what they do best.
"This fear has not only hurt medical innovation and treatment. It's also hurt medical volunteerism," he told a full audience of university notables and dignitaries. "Many doctors used to give a day a week to the needy. And I'm convinced that, if not for the liability issue, many more would donate time today."
According to senior class president Asma Poonawala, Bush was chosen to speak because he is widely respected among members of the class. "We did a poll earlier in the year, and his name turned up often as a desired speaker," she said. "He's been a businessman, a politician, a World War II fighter, and because he's no longer in politics, he has the perspective of an elder statesman. We're very pleased he accepted our offer."
Because the former president already has an honorary Hopkins degree, Poonawala and members of the senior class have been trying to come up with an appropriate gift to honor his visit.
"We're still deciding, but we want to make it something personal and special," she said. "I will be presenting it at a luncheon for President Bush, in which I will welcome him to the university." Later, at the diploma ceremony, she will introduce him from the podium.
"I'm really excited," she said. "We're all looking forward to meeting him and hearing what he has to say."
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