Afghan President Hamid Karzai Challenges Boston University Graduates to Be Guided by Humanity

Contact: Ann Marie Menting, 617/353-2240 |

(Boston) — Challenging graduates to “discover how moral imperative must also drive our actions, even when there are no economic or political motives,” Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai addressed the more than 25,000 graduates and guests assembled at Boston University’s 132nd commencement exercises, which begin at 11 a.m. today.

At the ceremony, Karzai, the first democratically elected president in the history of Afghanistan, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, conferred by Boston University President ad interim Aram Chobanian. The Boston University Commencement, the largest graduation ceremony in New England, was held on the university’s Nickerson Field.

In his address, Karzai urged the graduates, as the leaders of tomorrow, to “make decisions of consequence that allow morality and the sense of fundamental concern for humanity guide [them].

“Every time we ignore the suffering of others or stand by and watch, we do not only act against our own interests but we violate a part of our humanity. We do not have to wait for our governments to save people from misery because it will be just too late for many. As individuals, we can make a difference as well.”

Karzai’s ties to Boston University go back to 1987, when he helped the university launch the Afghan Media Project in Peshawar, Pakistan, an effort to provide print, broadcast and photojournalism skills to Afghans involved in the resistance to Soviet occupation. The success of that program helped bring to the world news and images of the Afghans’ struggle to defeat and drive out the Soviet army, marshalling support around the world for the beleaguered Afghan nation.

Commencement activities began today with a 9 a.m. baccalaureate service at Marsh Chapel. In the sermon she delivered, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, a theoretical physicist and, for the past six years, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, explored the issue of achieving an ethical balance in life ( Jackson, who is the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate from MIT and one of the first two African-American women in the United States to earn a doctorate in physics, was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the all-campus ceremony at 11 a.m.

Also receiving honorary degrees today were: artist and Boston University Professor Emeritus David Aronson, a leader of the Boston Expressionist art movement of the 1940s who helped form the university’s School of Visual Arts in its College of Fine Arts; John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and pioneering businessman who developed sophisticated management tools for the commodities and investing fields; Sen. John F. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who has served on Capitol Hill since 1984; Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, currently president of The Whitman Strategy Group, a management consulting partnership serving government and business clients; and Edward J. Zander, CEO and chairman of the board of Motorola.

Chobanian conferred the honorary degrees on behalf of Boston University. Chobanian, a world-renowned cardiologist, became president ad interim in October 2003. He served as dean of the Boston University School of Medicine from 1988 to 2003 and provost of the university’s medical campus from 1996 to 2003. He has been a faculty member at the School of Medicine for 41 years.

Boston University, with an enrollment of more than 29,000 in its 17 schools and colleges, is the fourth-largest independent university in the nation.