December 4, 2002
President McAleese receives honorary degree
From: Online.ie, Ireland - 04 Dec 2002
President Mary McAleese today received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at Bristol University in England.
The eighth president of Ireland was awarded the degree at a special ceremony attended by academics, university staff and the Sheriff of Bristol.
She spoke about the importance of education in unlocking potential and as the key to progress.
She said: "When people ask me today to explain Ireland's remarkable economic success and exuberant self confidence, I tell them education was and is the key."
She quoted Seamus Heaney, who said education had unlocked "intelligences, brightened and unmannerly as crowbars".
Education brought empowerment, the president explained.
"Education bestows the power and also of course the burden of choice: the choice is to be active or passive, to change ourselves, our circumstances and ultimately our society."
The audience had earlier heard the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University detail the president's life, from her upbringing in Belfast through her legal and broadcasting careers to her current achievements.
Professor Patricia Broadfoot described those as a "triumph of vision over violence".
Mary McAleese said she was proud of the honour conferred on her by the university, particularly praising the work of its Centre for Deaf Studies, which she visited prior to the ceremony.
She explained how growing up with a profoundly deaf brother had shown her how the deaf were a group who knew all about exclusion.
Referring back to her earlier quote, she added: "If our world is to change, if the embrace of empowerment is to hold every human being, if the obstacle course of poverty and neglect is to be cleared then we are going to need a lot of educated crowbars."