Talk about putting somebody on the spot. The only announcement I have here today is to say is that your President, President LeBlanc looks pretty, pretty darn studly in the bling that he's got around his neck.
I want to do something before I start here - I want to have my two daughters stand up. I have Gracie and Elizabeth who are here. I'd like them to stand up, I'd like you to know who they are and I'd like them to raise their right hand. Raise your right hand girls - I promise that from now on I will only refer to my dad as Dr. Huntsman. You may be seated.
I want President LeBlanc to know as well that we were sitting in a great restaurant down the road called Shorty's talking about you yesterday. People had some very complimentary things to say about your terrific leadership.
To those who are graduating, to David, we salute your service. Marek, it wasn't so bad my friend, was it? And those themes that you brought out and articulated were terrific. You might hear a little bit more about that in a minute.
To students who are in the military, David Wilson, to veterans in the crowd, to combat wounded, to Nathan Yates, who I just was able to meet in the back room, overcoming all of the odds to be here today - you are awesome.
Amber - you're going on to become a pro tennis player, but promise me this: you don't lose that smile that lights up the entire room.
So for all of you who are here, may I say to all in the class of 2011: you did it, we're very, very proud of you and congratulations.
What a terrific accomplishment, I also understand that SNHU has a few international students, in fact fifty to sixty different countries represented here, among them about 150 Chinese students who are graduating.
So to them I say: (Speaks In Mandarin)
Now the rest of you are just going to have to figure out what I just said. It may take you a while.
Another thing I want to do is thank this University for giving an honorary doctorate to someone whose initial passion in life was simply to be a rock and roll musician. I thought it was my ticket to fame. I even ended up leaving high school a bit short of graduation to play in a band called Wizard.
You probably have some of our songs or maybe not, since there were never really any Wizard songs, at least publicly released.
But I did have the rocker look. Rod Stewart's shaggy hair. Super skinny jeans, that when I tell my kids about it, they absolutely gag.
I had a cool, grungy van-an ugly, green Ford Econoline that I gutted to hold all of our equipment along with the band... who sat in the back on folding chairs. So every time we would turn those corners, the entire band would slide across the floor, hitting the wall.
Come to think of it, the sound of those chairs screeching across the floor was probably almost as the music we produced.
But, you know, I feel like I've finally made it. Elton John played this very arena. and Sting and Rod Stewart and yes, Justin Bieber . . . and now me. Who's next, Lady Gaga?
So for all of these reasons, I'm feeling pretty darn good today.
Three weeks ago, I stepped off the plane from China, after living in that dynamic country for two years. Coming home after living 10,000 miles away gives you a certain perspective.
I have lived overseas four times before and don't worry, I have a U.S. birth certificate.
But every time I live in a foreign place I've learned something about America.
On returning this time, I'm finding how pessimistic many Americans are about this country's ability to adapt to the future. They point to global economic trends, the lack of jobs, the incomprehensible debt, the bitterness in Washington, the wars that seem to never end, the environmental and natural disasters.
You hear how the Chinese economy is going to swamp us. Don't believe it. China has its own problems. And we have our own strengths. I mean there's a reason that Google was started in America and not Russia or Germany or China.
Anyone who has bet against this country long term has lost his money.
So let me tell you why I think you all should feel optimistic as you receive your degrees today and move to the next phases of your lives.
To tell you about America, I need to talk for a moment about China.
In an apartment that was barely a step up from homelessness, I recently met a petite, magnetic, impoverished Chinese woman by the name of Ni Yulan. I would frequently meet with dissidents. Emotionally, this was the most powerful thing I did-or could do-as ambassador. Sometimes I would go to them. Sometimes they would come to the Embassy. We did this quietly. It was a real peril for them, and it also closed some official doors for me.
But Ni Yulan became an activist trying to protect her family's hutong home from the wrecking ball. From this cause-which she lost, by the way-she went on to commit her life to justice and basic human rights.