Fairfield University awards more than 1200 degrees to Class of 2003; hears from Brookings Institution president Strobe Talbott


The phrase "international community" is "a bit out of favor" in Washington D.C. today, Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution, said Sunday during his commencement address to 2003 graduates of Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn.

"In fact, there is a strongly held and ascendant view that there is no such thing as an international community; that to believe otherwise is a snare and a delusion; that it's not a community out there in the big wide world, rather it's a jungle, a vast expanse of badlands; and that America's preeminence and invincibility comprise the only reliable and effective force for order, safety, justice and freedom," said Talbott, a former deputy secretary of state and foreign affairs columnist for Time magazine.

Talbott told the 1,217 graduates that the United States' decision to dismiss the United Nations, sideline NATO, bypass the bulk of the world community and go to war with Iraq was a pivotal moment for America. "This time - unlike in the first Gulf War, unlike in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan - our president felt it necessary to act without the United Nations, and without the backing of much of the rest of the world, including many of our closest allies," said Talbott.

"Is the United States going to continue to be a powerful member of a vast collaborative effort that reinvents the world for the better through treaties, alliances and international institutions?" Talbott asked. "Or is it going to see itself, as some suggest and advocate, as an empire?"

Mr. Talbott encouraged the graduates to keep in mind Catholic ideals they absorbed during their time at the Jesuit university, as a guide to their participation in the great debate about America's international role.

Mr. Talbott invoked Pope John the 23rd's encyclical "Pacem in Terris," disseminated 40 years ago: "It's a ringing endorsement of the idea that humanity shares a common creation, a common destiny and common responsibilities - and one of those responsibilities is to respect the diversity of views, cultures and interests represented by the myriad countries, large and small, around the world," Mr. Talbott said.

Rev. Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., president of Fairfield University, conferred an honorary doctor of laws degree on Mr. Talbott, as well as Fairfield University alumnus Major (ret) Michael Donnelly of South Windsor, Conn., a Persian Gulf War fighter pilot who won a battle to gain full disability and survivor benefits for others, like him, who suffer from neurological illnesses; and Sister Mary Rose McGeady, D.C., president and chief executive officer of Covenant House in New York.

Grayce M. Sills, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., of Columbus, Ohio, a leader in nursing and psychiatric mental health nursing for more than 40 years and a visiting professor at Fairfield University, was presented with an honorary doctor of science degree.

"We must hope that America will not remain dominant through the use of the weapons of war, but through the use of values; the very same values this university holds close and has taught us for four years," said Sean Hayes, of Dayton, Ohio, who delivered the valedictory address. "It is our duty, our duty as graduates, our duty as humans, to hope and pray for a better world. Yet we must also work for this better world, a Great Society of global proportions; then we will guarantee that the Jesuit message will stretch everywhere, from Fairfield to Baghdad."

The Saint Ignatius Loyola Medal for outstanding university service was awarded to Karen A. Donoghue of West Bridgewater, Mass. Brian Beirne, of Milford, Conn., received the Bellarmine Medal, which is given to the student with the highest four-year academic average.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 18, 2003

Vol. 35, No. 306