, SEPTEMBER 21, 2011 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla (PHOTO -  President Aquino is conferred a Doctor of Laws degree, honoris causa, by Fordham University president Joseph McShane, S.J., (left) in a ceremony Monday at the Keating Hall, Rose Hill campus in New York City. Also in photo are John Tognino (back), chairman of the board of trustees, and Henry Schalbenberg, associate professor of Economics and director of the graduate program in International Political Economy and Development.)

VIA PLDT - President Aquino was well received when he was conferred a doctor of laws degree on Monday by a sister institution of his alma mater Ateneo, and even received a standing ovation at the Jesuit-run Fordham University here.

The 51-year-old Chief Executive received long and extended applause before and after he was conferred the honorary degree by Fordham president Fr. Joseph McShane at the school’s jampacked Keating Hall.

“Formed and guided by example of your remarkable parents, you have lived your life as an example of the very best in tertiary education. Your father inspired the nation, your mother sparked the revolution in the hearts not only of the people of the Republic of the Philippines but also in the hearts of all those who have freedom around the world,” McShane said.

The Fordham official lauded Aquino for “following the footsteps” of his parents, and for living his life “selflessly in the service of others,” and in the process nurturing democracy that his father Ninoy fought for and his mother Cory restored in mid-80s.

The President’s name was carved next to that of his mother, who also received an honorary degree from Fordham in September 1986, a few months after she was elected into office that resulted in the exile of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

“You have shown to the world and you have shown particularly to us here at Fordham, the life of principled service can and does transform the world,” McShane said, thanking Aquino for upholding the rule of law and helping poor people.

Aquino was awed at being conferred a degree, saying he was “struck by the symbolism” of the event. “I am struck by the symbolism of Fordham’s tradition of literally carving in stone, the names of leaders upon whom you have conferred honorary doctorates.”

The President now joins over 30 others, including that of his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, whose names are carved on the steps of what is known as the “Terrace of the Presidents” at Keating Hall.

“Memorialized in this manner for all time, these names serve as proof positive, or proof negative, of this university’s considered judgment in bestowing this honor,” he said.

“It serves as a permanent reminder that the verdict of history on those who have been accorded this distinction will neither be deferred, nor ignored,” he added.

Since 1949 only two Philippine presidents – Marcos and Joseph Estrada – have not been accorded the privilege of being bestowed the honorary degree. Coincidentally, both were ousted from power, Marcos in February 1986 and Estrada in January 2001.

Aquino has now joined legendary world leaders such as former US Presidents John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt and others in the elite group of 41 heads of state who were given the distinct recognition and honor by Fordham University.

Aquino was the eighth leader of the Philippines who received a doctors of law degree from the Fordham University since the time of former President Elpidio Quirino, who received the same in August 1949.

Aside from the Aquino mother and son, the father and daughter tandem was also honored in the case of former President Diosdado Macapagal (October 1964) and former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in May 2003.

Other former Philippine leaders bestowed with the degree include the late presidents Ramon Magsaysay (June 1952) and Carlos Garcia (June 1958), and former President Fidel Ramos (November 1993).

Speaking engagements

Aquino will also have a keynote speech at “The Power of Open: Global Discussion” at Google here Tuesday, where he will be welcomed by Alfred Spector, vice president of research and special Google initiatives.

Then comes the launch of the “Open Government Partnership” in the afternoon, where he was invited by US President Obama and Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, co-chairs of the OGP Forum, where the Philippines is among the select eight-member countries.

Obama and Rousseff will deliver their respective opening remarks where they will call upon the member-countries to adopt the “Open Government Declaration” by leaders of the steering committee members.

It is in this particular event that Aquino will interact with Obama, but there has been no one-on-one schedule insofar as the two heads of state are concerned, although a pull aside may not be farfetched if circumstances warrant.

There will be a photo opportunity with all the OGP members, including those of the steering committee, which counts the Philippines among its members.

Philippines is one of eight countries - and one of only two in Asia, the other being Indonesia - in the OGP steering committee.

Other member-countries - apart from US, Brazil and Philippines - include Indonesia, Mexico, United Kingdom, Norway and South Africa. Steering committee members were selected based on fiscal transparency, access to information and disclosures of officials.

An advocate of good governance that underscores anti-corruption agenda for countries, the OGP is a new multilateral initiative to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.

Aquino will also deliver a speech at the Asia Society where he will be welcomed by its president, Dr. Vishakha Desai.

On Wednesday, Aquino will deliver his remarks at the IBM Centennial Forum at the Alice Tully Hall at the Lincol Center here, where he will again be joined by members of his official delegation.

The IBM forum, according to Foreign Assistant Secretary Patricia Ann Paez, will be attended by more than 700 leaders from government, business, academe and science, as well as upcoming leaders from across the globe.

Aquino will also visit Sen. Daniel Inouye, President Pro-Tempore of the US Senate and chairman of the appropriations committee, to thank him for his continued support of Philippine causes in the US Congress.

Inouye helped pass the Filipino Veterans Equity legislation and has consistently supported sustained US economic and military assistance to the Philippines, and sponsored the SAVE Act which will benefit both garment and textile manufacturers in both countries.

Aquino will be interviewed by the Washington Post past lunchtime.

At 4 p.m., he will deliver a public lecture at the 2011 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund at the WB Headquarters in Washington.

After which the President will hold a meeting with the Filipino community of Washington, Virginia and Maryland at the Fairfax Hotel, where he will also be joined by Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr., among others.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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