Education

Nobel laureate urges UM grads to use power of education

Oscar Arias delivers University of Miami commencement speech

Former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias delivered the commencement address a UM on May 6, 2016.
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Former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias delivered the commencement address a UM on May 6, 2016.

In a world with “suffering and sickness nearly everywhere,” Nobel laureate and former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias urged University of Miami graduates on Friday to “take a stand against the darkness.”

Best known for forging peace in Central America following widespread civil war that killed more than 100,000 Guatemalans, Arias delivered a somber message to about 770 graduates in the College of Arts and Sciences. In all, 3,500 students will graduate over the school’s weekend of pomp and circumstance.

While problems are numerous and intractable, Arias said, the UM graduates join a select educated minority in the world with the tools for powerful change.

The most pressing problems of our age require not more money, or time or insight but simply leaders who are willing to consider a new way of doing things.

Nobel laureate Oscar Arias, former Costa Rican president

“The most pressing problems of our age require not more money, or time or insight,” he said, “but simply leaders who are willing to consider a new way of doing things.”

Reciting a parable about a father who gives his sons coins to test their resourcefulness, Arias urged the graduates to invest wisely.

“This is no ordinary coin. It is a coin that represents the knowledge and education you have obtained, a coin that will buy your futures,” he said.

Arias, speaking just moments after the university honored one of its geography professors for his work on population migration, also took a jab at the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, and his proposal to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S.

Recounting a litany of critical concerns — 17,000 children who die daily from starvation or related causes, 800 million who live in substandard housing and 264 million with no access to clean water — Arias delivered this rebuke: “It is a crisis in the U.S. when xenophobic prejudice reaches the mainstream political discourse.”

Oscar Arias, the former president of Costa Rica, received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from the University of Miami on May 6, 2016.

While a far cry from the rowdy address given by singer Jimmy Buffett for former university president Donna Shalala’s last commencement, Arias still drew enthusiastic applause. The ceremony also marked the first for university president Julio Frenk, the school’s first Hispanic president and Mexico’s former Minister of Health.

Standing before the university’s 90th graduating class, Frenk noted how far the school had come from its first commencement with its graduating class of four, “three-quarters of which were from Coral Gables.”

“You come from all over the world, including 55 countries and 44 states,” he said, noting that half the students belong to a racial or ethnic minority. “For all this wonderful diversity, every one of you will always be a proud Miami Hurricane.”

For all this wonderful diversity, every one of you will always be a proud Miami Hurricane.

University of Miami President Julio Frenk

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