Viggo Mortensen Tells Grads 'Activism Not a Dirty Word'

May 26, 2006, 01:00 ET from St. Lawrence University

    CANTON, N.Y., May 26 /PRNewswire/ -- "Lord of the Rings" star Viggo
 Mortensen told the graduates of St. Lawrence University in Canton, New
 York, that "activism is not a dirty word" and urged them to be active
 citizens, particularly to make changes in the country's health-care system.
     Mortensen, star of "A History of Violence," graduated from St. Lawrence
 in 1980 and spoke to the University's 567 graduates at Commencement on
 Sunday, May 21, in Appleton Arena on campus. He also received an honorary
 doctor of arts degree at the ceremony, held indoors for the first time in
 21 years. "Much has changed in this country and the world since 1980," he
 said, "but the value of active citizenship is greater than ever. Making an
 earnest attempt to connect with people and issues outside of one's own
 limited personal circle will always be worthwhile. My liberal arts
 education at St. Lawrence taught me as much, and for that I am grateful."
     He added, "Plato once said that 'One of the penalties of refusing to
 participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your
 inferiors.' Recent election results and subsequent political appointments
 in this country seem to bear that admonishment out."
     Specifically, Mortensen urged those gathered to become active in
 changing what he sees as an inadequate and inequitable health-care system.
 He stated, "Among the most revered of teachings in any religion or
 spiritual code of ethics, including those attributed to Jesus Christ, is
 the admonition to care for the least fortunate among us. This lesson seems
 to have gone unheeded by many in the health care and insurance business,
 and, most tellingly, by the politicians who do their often uncharitable and
 obstructionist bidding. This is especially galling in light of how many of
 these same politicians regularly trumpet their avowed Christian values as
 badges of honor and electability."
     Continuing, Mortensen said, "People cannot be mentally focused,
 positive and actively engaged citizens if they are constantly worried that
 the only thing keeping them from financial ruin is to dangerously delay
 seeking or altogether deny themselves and their dependents necessary
 medical attention. You can, if you will, as informed individuals, do
 something -- however little -- to call attention to this most important
 problem in your own communities."
     Also receiving honorary degrees and speaking at the ceremony were
 alumni Rev. Richard Gilbert, Class of 1958, and Barbara Tewksbury, Class of
 1973, the William R. Kenan Professor of Geology at Hamilton College.
     Full text of speeches available at
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SOURCE St. Lawrence University