Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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President pushes patriotism in OSU graduation address

COLUMBUS - As Yoshie Furuhashi used a microphone to rail against the U.S. war on terrorism, several people who had waited for two hours to get into Ohio Stadium broke into applause.

But it wasn't for anything Ms. Furuhashi said.

The crowd was applauding two women in black gowns riding a rickety bicycle with a sign tacked onto the back: “Need Work - Just Graduated.”

It was a sun-splashed slice of Americana that President Bush dropped into yesterday as he gave the commencement address at Ohio State University's spring ceremony. He joined Gerald Ford as the only sitting presidents to have done so.

“Patriotism is expressed by flying the flag, but it is more,” Mr. Bush told the audience of about 60,000, which included about 6,000 graduates of the class of 2002. “Patriotism means we share a single country. In all our diversity, each of us has a bond with every other American. Patriotism is proven in our concern for others - a willingness to sacrifice for people we may never have met or seen.

“Patriotism is our obligation to those who have gone before us, to those who will follow us, and to those who have died for us,” he said to frequent applause in the huge football stadium.

Mr. Bush referred to Army Ranger Marc Anderson, a Columbus-area resident who was killed in March in Afghanistan trying to rescue a Navy Seal.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Mr. Anderson left his job as a school teacher to join the battle against terrorism. “I'm trained and ready,” he wrote to his friends.

Before he left for Afghanistan, Mr. Anderson arranged for part of his life insurance to help one of his students attend college. Jennifer Massing plans to enroll at the University of Florida to study architecture, Mr. Bush said.

“America needs more than taxpayers, spectators, and occasional voters. America needs full-time citizens. America needs men and women who respond to the call of duty, who stand up for the weak, who speak up for their beliefs, who sacrifice for a greater good.

“America needs your energy, and your leadership, and your ambition. And through the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness and decency, we will change America one soul at a time - and we will build a culture of service,” said Mr. Bush, who received an honorary doctor of public administration degree.

The message connected with Joyce Tagarisa, who grew up in Zimbabwe and came to the United States on July 4, 1995, to enroll at the University of Toledo and pursue her dream of becoming a dentist.

She was among the graduates that OSU President William E. “Brit” Kirwan mentioned in his commencement speech.

Ms. Tagarisa in 1998 earned her undergraduate degree in biology from UT, as she and her husband raised three children. She gave birth to a fourth child and then enrolled at the OSU College of Dentistry.

Yesterday she graduated and has two offers for an associate practice in the Columbus area.

“The President's speech was very patriotic, and I liked his emphasis on service,” said the 38-year-old Ms. Tagarisa, whose parents traveled from Zimbabwe to watch her graduate.

About four hours before Mr. Bush's speech, about 50 protesters stood on a ridge outside Ohio Stadium with signs that included: “Thinking is not Dissent,” “Bush is a Terrorist,” and “End Fascist Terrorism.”

Ms. Furuhashi, a 38-year-old graduate student who was born in Japan, said poor people are asked to be patriotic but not U.S.-based corporations that receive tax breaks and shut down factories so they can make larger profits in countries with cheaper labor.

“We're opposed to how George W. Bush said the war on terrorism needs to be brought to 60 more nations. It looks like we're heading for a lifetime of war,” she said.

Larry Phillips, 50, stood in one of the long lines that snaked around the stadium as people waited to go through metal detectors. His nephew graduated with a degree in economics.

What did he think of Ms. Furuhashi and the other protesters?

“I spent 20 years in the Navy defending their ability to say what they want to say,” he said.

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