NEW YORK (May 21, 2003) – Citing her courageous leadership and commitment to economic and social reform, Fordham University conferred an honorary doctorate of laws upon Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Philippines, today. “Those who are honoring me with this degree today led me as though by hand to the White House lawn,” said President Macapagal-Arroyo, referring to her Jesuit education and a recent visit with President George Bush. “I can speak of the value of a Jesuit degree. Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (For the Greater Glory of God); Homo Pro Aliis (a person for others).
These ideals are ever so relevant to the responsibility entrusted to me as president of my country, to improve the lives of my countrymen, to ensure their safety and to realize their collective potential to become a strong nation.” President Macapagal-Arroyo’s award had a special distinction in that it marked the first time that Fordham has conferred an honorary degree upon the daughter of a former honorary degree recipient. Thirty-eight years ago, President Macapagal-Arroyo’s father, the late Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal, received an honorary doctorate of laws. President Macapagal-Arroyo accompanied her father at that ceremony, which took place Oct. 9, 1964 on Fordham’s Rose Hill campus. “It is a personal pleasure and an institutional pleasure to welcome the president of the Philippines back to Fordham,” said the Rev. Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., University president, during the ceremony held in the McNally Amphitheater at the School of Law. He commended President Macapagal-Arroyo for her commitment to social justice and her fight to eradicate poverty in the Philippines.
For Father O’Hare, conferring this degree was especially significant because of his personal experience in the Philippines. The Society of Jesus has a long relationship with the Philippines, the only Catholic country in Asia. As a Jesuit scholastic, Father O’Hare spent six years studying and teaching in the Philippines. He taught for many years at the Ateneo de Manila University, as did President Macapagal-Arroyo. Today, several of his former students hold influential posts in the Philippines, including three of the five Jesuit presidents of Jesuit universities in the country and several high-ranking government officials. “Father O’Hare is a Filipino at heart,” said Macapagal-Arroyo during her remarks. “The country has reaped well from the seeds of excellence he sowed.” In addition to expressing her appreciation for Father O’Hare and Jesuit education, Macapagal-Arroyo described her political reasons for her trip to the United States. Her mission, she said, is to end terrorism and poverty in her country. She emphasized the importance of building alliances with other countries through diplomacy and acting as an ambassador for business and investment in the Philippines to meet these goals.
Prior to entering politics, Macapagal-Arroyo was a tenured economics professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, where Father O’Hare taught just before her arrival. In 1987, Macapagal-Arroyo joined President Corazon Aquino’s administration as an assistant secretary of the undersecretary of social welfare and development. In 1992, she was elected to the Senate, where she authored 55 laws on economic and social reform. In 1998, she was elected vice president with almost 13 million votes, the most cast for this position in Philippine history. President Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in as the country’s 14th president in January 2001. The mission of her administration has been to redistribute economic resources and reduce poverty. U.S. President George W. Bush and other world leaders have recognized her as a strong leader against global poverty and terrorism. Macapagal-Arroyo attended Georgetown University for two years before graduating from Assumption College with a bachelor’s degree in commerce. She later graduated with a master’s degree from Ateneo de Manila and earned her doctorate at the University of the Philippines.