Bush Addresses Lutheran Graduates to Form Compassionate Society

( [email protected] ) May 15, 2004 08:49 AM EDT

MEQUON, Wis. –President Bush received a doctoral degree in law at the Concordia University, one of the largest Lutheran universities in the U.S. yesterday May 14, in Mequon, Wisconsin. While he was at the commencement ceremony with an audience of a several thousand, he delivered a commencement address calling on the 479 graduates of Concordia University to help build a compassionate society.

"America needs your idealism to show the good heart of our country to the whole world. A compassionate society sees needs and suffering beyond its borders and cares enough to act," Bush told the graduates.

"Many of us find there is much more to life than getting and keeping," Bush said, "Instead of ignoring or resenting religious charities and faith-based groups, this country will encourage these good works in every way we can.”

"True fulfillment comes with the responsibilities we assume to care for our families and to love a neighbor as we want to be loved ourselves," Bush told nearly 500 graduating seniors. "This is more than a familiar saying, it is the foundation of a meaningful life."

During his official speech, he also touched upon the issue of faith-based initiative expressing his desire to expand the role of churches and religious charities in government.

“We must support the best, the most effective sources of compassion and hope -- and we will not discriminate against people of faith,” Bush said.

Bush spoke of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, referring to the incident as an embarrassment to our nation.

"Yet we've recently seen how much difference, for good or ill, the choices of individual men and women can make," the president said. "In Iraq the cruelty of a few has brought discredit to their uniform and embarrassment to our country."

“Those failures cannot diminish the honor and achievement of more than 200,000 military personnel who have served in Iraq since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Bush said.

“We’re delighted that President Bush accepted our invitation to be part of our commencement ceremony,” said Patrick Ferry, the school’s president, in a statement.

Rebecca Haupt, junior at Concordia, who is leading the university’s Volunteer Outreach in Christian Enthusiasm, said Bush deserves thanks for encouraging people to volunteer, after shaking his hand at the airport.

"That he's made that a priority means a lot to me," Haupt said.

Concordia, affiliated with The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, was founded in 1881 as a college to train pastors. In 1965, it began accepting women focused on becoming teachers, deaconesses or social workers. It became a four-year college in 1978 and was granted university status in 1989.