Rwandan President Paul Kagame Delivers Commencement Address
Oskaloosa, Iowa – Security was tight as the visiting head of state, Rwandan President Paul Kagame was on hand to deliver the 2012 commencement address at William Penn University.
Students of William Penn started gathering just before noon in the gymnasium, and the college of working adults gathered in the upstairs gym. Students talked amongst their friends and classmates, savoring those last words, sharing memories and accomplishments.
Just like every other person attempting to gain access to the building, everyone was subject to a walk through the metal detector and, on some occasions, a pat down by security.
Secret Service, Rwandan Security, Homeland Security, Iowa State Patrol, Oskaloosa Police and the Mahaska County Sheriff along with William Penn Campus Security all took part in protecting the visiting head of state. Despite the just over 25 protestors outside, everything on the inside ran with no interruption.
Kagame was bestowed an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by William Penn. “It is a distinct pleasure for me to be associated with William Penn University,” Kagame said about the relationship that has developed between the university and Rwanda in the past few years. “This partnership is evidently beginning to produce results. Today, we mark another milestone in this relationship, with Rwandan students being part of this graduating class. We are proud of them and this university.” Kagame said he hoped that many more students would find their way to William Penn in the future. “They did not only find an education here, but also a home away from home.”
Speaking towards the common principles between Rwanda and William Penn, Kagame said, “I’m also happy to say that Rwanda shares the principles and values of which this university was founded and continue to shape it.”
“Whenever people decide to live the best life they can, and better the lives of others as well, one will find some common characteristics,” Kagame said continuing to draw the correlation between the two.
Once all the diplomas and honors had been handed out, students filed out of the Penn Activity Center onto the lawn of Penn Hall for the traditional “Blue and Gold Ceremony”. This ceremony welcomes every graduate into a lifetime Alumni Association. The ribbon is stretched across the lawn, with knots every so often. This knot is representative of the bond shared by all alumni. Scissors are used, and each graduate takes with them a section of knotted ribbon as a reminder of that day.
The day’s “Blue and Gold Ceremony” was different than normal, as the sounds of protestors could be heard over the chatter of excited family members and students as they prepared for their final event at William Penn.
Kagame’s visit drew protestors from as far away as Texas, who say that Kagame’s “A human rights abuser,” as was stated by protestor Theophile Murayi. Murayi also said that Kagame, “doesn’t tolerate descent.”
Murayi said that he [Kagame] abuses human rights by oppressing all freedoms, “freedom of press, freedom of assembly, the freedom of speech.”