Sept. 21, 2006 • Volume 15 Number 2

Monday's First Year Academic Convocation began with the First Flight Procession through campus and down the Higgins Stairs to Conte Forum, below. Guest speaker US Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) answers questions from the audience.

McCain Says US Must Hold Onto Values in War

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

"We need not and we must not sacrifice our values in the war on terrorism," US Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told members of Boston College's Class of 2010 during the keynote address at the University's First Year Academic Convocation at Conte Forum on Monday night.

"We cannot win the war if we do," said McCain, a presidential candidate in the 2000 election and former prisoner of war in Vietnam. "And, we will lose something far more precious, our political soul.

"We must represent to the world - even in perilous times when we confront enemies who share none of our values, who scorn the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, values that ennoble our history - we must always show that world that those values are dearer to us than anything; that they are dearer than life itself."

McCain's address to an audience of 2,250 freshmen and an additional 2,000 members of the University community capped BC's third annual First Year Convocation ceremony, which included a class barbecue and the First Flight Procession, a torchlit walk by the Class of 2010 across campus from Linden Lane to Conte Forum. The procession is a centuries-old Jesuit academic tradition in keeping with the exhortation of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius Loyola: "Go set the world aflame."

McCain greeted the students as they processed down Higgins Stairs and entered Conte Forum.

"I truly believe that Sen. McCain focused our students upon the essential mission of undergraduate education," said Rev. Joseph Marchese, director of First Year Experience. "It has always been the tradition of liberal arts colleges that they speak not only of intellectual life but also of the grooming of citizens, not only for a particular nation, but also for the world.

"He invoked an enthusiastic response from the students to be involved in that mission," Fr. Marchese said.

"The whole day was special," said resident assistant Caitlin Corrieri '07 of Clinton, Mass., who attended the convocation events with her students from Hardey Hall.

In recent weeks, McCain has been a vocal critic of the Bush administration's interpretation of Geneva Convention guidelines for treatment of war prisoners.

"I believe that even though captured al-Qaeda members who would never afford us any protection of our rights - on the contrary they despise all human rights - and even though they are in fact evil, we must be fair in our treatment and stand by the standards of our values, not theirs." McCain said.

"It's not about them. It's about us," he said.

McCain, a former Naval aviator, was held prisoner in Vietnam for more than six years after his aircraft was shot down over Hanoi in 1967. He and his fellow prisoners were often tortured for information while they were held in captivity.

"I served with men of extraordinary character," he said. "Often they were tortured and compelled to make statements criticizing our country and the cause that we had been asked to serve."

But many of these men, McCain said, resisted their captors' demands, and assurances that no one would ever know of their acquiesence, by declaring "I will know."

"Those days were long ago, but not so long ago that I have forgotten their purpose or their reward," McCain continued. "This is your chance to make history," he told the first year students. "I wish you more than good luck; I wish you the most important thing in the world. I wish that you always hear the voice in your own heart as you face the hard decisions in your life, to hear it say to you again and again, until it drowns out every other thought:

"I will know. I will know. I will know."

McCain's address drew three standing ovations from the audience. "I really thought it was meaningful," said Patrick Cassidy, a freshman from Milwaukee. "He gave us some great hope for our country," added Sam Hay '10, from Charlotte, NC. "Our goal is to make a difference."

"It was a great way to start," added freshman Brittany Lewis of Lockport, NY.

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