The Catholic University of America

June 15, 2009

CUA President Delivers Commencement Address in Republic of China

Father O'Connell Also Receives Honorary Doctorate


Father O'Connell and Wan-Lee Cheng, president of Chung Yuan Christian University.

Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., president of The Catholic University of America, delivered the 2009 commencement address and received an honorary Doctor of Science degree at Chung Yuan Christian University (CYCU) in Taiwan on Saturday, June 13. Approximately 3,000 students - bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree recipients - graduated at ceremonies on the Taiwan campus.

Prior to giving him the honorary degree, CYCU President Cheng introduced Father O'Connell to the capacity audience in the university's Great Hall as "a true scholar, university administrator and higher education leader" who "has demonstrated high ideals and standards of excellence in academic achievement and contribution to the humanities and other educational areas ... Your contributions to the betterment of humanity on an international scale indeed earn for you this highest honor."

CYCU was founded 53 years ago and has a student body of over 16,600 with six colleges - science, engineering, electrical engineering and computer science, business, design, humanities and education - and a school of law. CYCU currently counts 90,000 alumni all over the world.

According to its educational mission statement, CYCU "is founded on the spirit of Christian love for the world. With faith, hope and love, we endeavor to promote higher education for the benefit of Chinese people, aiming at the pursuit and advancement of genuine knowledge in order to maintain our cultural heritage and, thus, to serve humankind."


Father O'Connell and President Cheng at the signing ceremony.

Earlier in the day, the CUA delegation of Father O'Connell, Provost James Brennan, Dean of Engineering Charles Nguyen and Professor of Engineering Frank Pao met with administrators and faculty to discuss possible areas of collaboration between CUA and CYCU. Father O'Connell and CYCU President Wan-Lee Cheng signed a "memorandum of understanding" concerning such collaboration during formal ceremonies on the campus.

In his commencement address, Father O'Connell spoke to the graduates, their families and the assembled faculty and staff about the current economic crisis affecting the entire world. He referred to the "2004 Tsunami" that devastated the coast of Southeast Asia and killed almost 230,000 people in more than 11 countries as a parallel experience to the more recent financial devastation.

The first experience was beyond anyone's control and our response could only be "after the fact," said Father O'Connell. The "recent economic tsunami, by contrast, could have been avoided 'before the fact' if it were not for human greed on so many levels." In his remarks, Father O'Connell asked, "What have we learned, if anything, from this experience? What will be different?"

Father O'Connell then called for a "new tsunami," one that "must well up within the hearts of today's graduates and the thousands upon thousands of young women and men like them all over the world. A tsunami of love and compassion and respect that puts the 'other person' first; a tsunami that rises up and shouts: 'no more greed, no more injustice, no more poverty, no more war, no more terrorism.' " he added.

He then challenged this generation "to speak loud enough, to stand strong enough, to be willing to walk long enough to make the waves that are needed to wash the world anew in respect for human life, human dignity, human integrity, human understanding - a new tsunami of justice and peace and solidarity that comes from your faith in God and that will shake this world of ours to its very core."

During his brief visit to Taiwan, Father O'Connell and the other members of the CUA delegation also met with officials at Taiwan's St. John's University and Fu Jen Catholic University.