Philippine President Receives Honorary Degree

Photo by Jon Rou

Loyola Marymount University welcomed a head of state to campus on Feb. 17 when Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by President Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D.

 

Aquino, the 15th president of his nation, was recognized for his dedication to his country, his integrity and his embodiment of a Jesuit education.

Aquino leads an archipelago nation of nearly 90 million people, including more than 70 million Catholics. He was educated by the Jesuits at Ateneo de Manila University. Elected in 2010 to a six-year term, Aquino, a fourth-generation politician, is the only son of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. and President Corazon Aquino, who served as the nation’s first woman president from 1986 to 1992. She had assumed leadership of the pro-democracy movement following her husband’s assassination in 1983.

The Philippine president spoke at length of lessons he learned as a youth during the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos and marshal law. His parents were examples of living for others, Aquino said, and he learned the same through his Jesuit education. For him, the central question of existence is what we can do for others.

He also took to heart the fundamental principle of doing right, which also was taught in his Jesuit university. Aquino described a college course on the Philippine constitution while the nation was under martial law. “The professor said one day, ‘When I look at your faces, I see the faces of students who are supposed to be studying something which is the fundamental law of the land, only to exist in a universe where tomorrow it may cease to be the rule of the land. … Today, this is the situation, tomorrow it may not be. Tomorrow, you may be holding the reins of power, and tomorrow if you do not know the difference between right and wrong, how can anyone expect you or your generation to do that which is right?’ ”

“The LMU Filipino community — students, faculty and staff — are excited the university honored President Aquino, who has, alongside his parents, dedicated his life to the betterment of the Filipino people,” said Edmundo Litton, professor and chair of the Department of Urban Education in LMU’s School of Education. “A majority of the Filipino students at LMU are also the children of Filipinos who recently immigrated to the United States and thus, they still have very strong ties to the Philippines.”

“Honoring President Aquino is a visible sign that the university values the contributions of the Filipino community at LMU,” Litton said. “Filipino students make up the largest Asian group at LMU and California is the home of most of the Filipinos outside of the Philippines. By honoring President Aquino, LMU also honors the Filipino community.”
The conferral ceremony was co-sponsored by the School of Education’s Teach for the Philippines Program and the World Policy Institute at LMU.

Aquino was welcomed by Mayor Garcetti and Congresswoman Waters. Snyder also paid tribute to the Philippine leader:

“President Aquino’s political career has been marked by his lifelong dedication to democratic values for all citizens. His leadership has brought unprecedented economic growth, new and reformed social services, renewed approaches to the Filipino educational system, and programs aimed at supporting the poorest members of Philippine society. In the true Ignatian spirit of the magis, President Aquino has continually sought to do more.”