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Citation: President Aquino

At the beginning of the last century, the United States conquered the Philippines—wresting control from the Spanish Empire and, with genocidal brutality, suppressing a democratic, independence movement led by, among others, your great grandfather. Thankfully, during decades of American colonial rule and, following 1946, Philippine independence, respect and affection grew between the peoples of our two nations. In that friendship, many Filipinos, including your aunt Teresita and your mother Corazon, pursued their undergraduate education at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.

In the 1980s, your father, Ninoy, was murdered as he led a peaceful movement to restore democracy to the Philippines. In grief but with immense courage, hope, and faith, your mother Corazon Cojuanquo Aquino entered politics and helped to lead a peaceful, People Power Revolution. Filipinos stopped tanks and troops by kneeling in prayer. Wielding weapons only of dignity and moral courage, they undermined tyranny and toppled twenty years of dictatorship. The People Power Revolution of the Philippines inspired the world and became a model for other successful democratic revolutions following the disintegration of the Soviet Empire.

This college took special pride in your mother. She is our most illustrious alumna and was by any measure extraordinary. Amidst the uncertainty and turmoil of revolution, her authenticity, strength, and virtue made possible public trust and the re-founding of democratic institutions. As president, she faced down repeated coup attempts and sought social reforms to increase opportunity for the poor. After her retirement from public office until her death last year, she served as moral leader of your nation, a clear and trusted voice for social justice, democracy, the rule of law, opposition to corruption, and peaceful change.

Your Excellency, in the past year, as the Philippines continued a long struggle with doubt and corruption, you reignited the hopes of your nation, filled a reservoir of public trust, and won election to the presidency. Your service to the people of the Philippines gives renewed life to the causes to which your parents dedicated their lives.

In public service as member of the House of Representative, as Senator, and now as President, you have worked to secure democracy and the rule of law and to ensure clean, effective, efficient government. You know that government is not a necessary evil; it can be justice in action. You know that true democracy liberates people for lives of conscience, opens opportunity through education, and fosters the enterprise through which families escape poverty and come to enjoy all of God’s blessings. You know that clean, effective government is not simply good management. Rather, corruption and ineffective government are a grinding tax on economic opportunity and on our souls. Benigno S. Aquino, III, you are committed to making a reality of our ideals, Thus at your inauguration this June, you pledged to be “champion of the impoverished,” reminded every democratic soul that it is a “duty to lift the nation from poverty through honest” effective government, and have begun to return government to service by working to ensure that it serves well.

Your Excellency, you are your parents’ son and thus a child of this College. We celebrate and honor you and, if indirectly, take some little tidbit of credit for the ideals you serve. Twenty four years ago, on September 21, 1986, the College of Mount Saint Vincent conferred its highest honor, the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal, on your mother, in celebration of her “achievements, generosity of spirit and extraordinary self sacrifice.” Today, the twenty-second day of September, 2010, the College of Mount Saint Vincent is proud to celebrate you with the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal and thank you for your service to your nation and our world.

Charles L. Flynn, Jr.