FORMER US secretary of state Hillary Clinton delivered an impassioned defence of human rights and equality yesterday as she received an honorary degree from one of the UK’s oldest universities.
Mrs Clinton gave the graduation address at a ceremony to mark the 600th anniversary of the founding of St Andrews University, Scotland’s oldest university.
It was the politician’s first foreign visit since her term as secretary of state ended in February.
The former US first lady was conferred with a doctor of laws degree in recognition of her achievements as a politician and diplomat.
She said: “We need more voices speaking up for universal human rights. We have honoured some of the great advocates here today who have spoken out courageously for women’s rights, gay rights and religious understanding, showing us that our communities and institutions are strongest when equality and opportunity are open to all people and freedom of conscience is respected.
“Here in the home of the Scottish Enlightenment and the great contributions from Scottish universities, we need to be reminded that it paved the way for much of the progress we now take for granted, not only in the West but around the world. And it is important that as we chart our way forward in this new century, we bring with it the enlightened view that every individual around the world regardless of gender, religion, race, ethnicity or orientation, should be able to contribute to their societies and to have the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential.
“We are confronting deep cultural and political differences. Change can be very wrenching and it is difficult to bridge the gaps between and within societies.”
She received the doctorate from the Liberal Democrat politician and chancellor of St Andrews, Sir Menzies Campbell. In her address, Mrs Clinton said: “St Andrews has never been a place for calm seas, and that’s a good thing, because out of the churn and chop arise creativity and excellence. Today this is where things begin: teaching that opens the world, research that improves the world, even a love affair that enchants the world.”
Earlier the Duke of Cambridge congratulated the university on its anniversary in a letter which was read out by Sir Menzies at the beginning of the ceremony.
Prince William, who met his wife Catherine while studying at St Andrews, wrote: “As a proud new father, I have come to think more than ever about the world our children will inherit; and the role of education, research and intellectual courage in our society has never seemed so important. For Catherine and me, the University of St Andrews is an emblem of these virtues.
“As proud patron of the Anniversary Appeal, I am delighted to offer my congratulations to all the university’s honorary graduates today and my warmest congratulations to an institution that may be 600 years old, but which has never been as vital. Happy birthday, St Andrews.”