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Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Sen. Richard Lugar received the 42nd honorary degree of his career Sunday at Manchester College.

Lugar to grads: Seize future

Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Sen. Richard Lugar applauds as Manchester College faculty and students walk to their commencement ceremony Sunday.

Sen. Richard Lugar urged Manchester College graduates to have faith in their job prospects Sunday, assuring them the struggling economy would not stand in the way of their goals.

During his commencement address, the Indiana Republican applauded the liberal arts college for its innovative programs, encouraged students to consider a life of service and assured students that the United States was “well-positioned to remain the world’s economic leader.”

Lugar had not been a commencement speaker at the college since 1970. When he returned this year, the school’s president awarded him an honorary degree – the 42nd in his career, according to a staff aide.

Lugar told graduates that rapid advancements in technology had created a global marketplace that rewards those with a variety of skills as opposed to a single set of skills. He urged them to be optimistic about the future, and he reminded his audience that innovation and opportunity often arise during the toughest of times.

“For some of you this (graduation) process has included uncertainty and perhaps some frustration,” Lugar told members of the class of 2010 gathered in the college gymnasium. “But there is good reason for you to have confidence. … All of you are capable of making a lasting contribution.”

Lugar, the U.S. Senate’s most senior Republican, said he was impressed by Manchester’s decision to offer a three-year degree program that allows students to save as much as $10,000. He also touted the college’s commitment to environmental stewardship, study-abroad programs and encouraging a commitment to service.

Before his commencement address, the 121st for the school, Lugar spoke to reporters about former Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd, nuclear arms control and the Arizona immigration crackdown.

Lugar told reporters he was saddened to hear the news about Souder, who announced his resignation Tuesday while admitting to an affair with a part-time staffer, and the senator called it a sad moment for Republican politics.

He said it is a shame that Souder’s former constituents will have to go without representation for the time being.

“I commend Mark for his service,” he said. “I think he acted appropriately.”

Lugar would not weigh in on a possible Republican replacement for Souder, saying the decision is up to the people of northeast Indiana.

In response to a question about foreign policy, Lugar said he respected President Obama’s dedication to pursuing a strategic nuclear arms control deal with Russia and praised the president’s ability to put an “excellent” security team together.

When asked about the controversial immigration legislation in Arizona, Lugar said it was “not right for Indiana” and would require higher taxes to implement.

Lugar, a lifelong farmer, was born in 1932 in Indianapolis. He launched his political career with election to the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners in the 1960s and became mayor of Indianapolis in 1968.

Lugar, Republican leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is perhaps best known for his work on the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program – an effort to dismantle weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union.

He graduated from Denison University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford in the 1950s.

Lugar said his memories of Manchester extend further back than his last visit in 1970. In high school, he said, he came to Manchester for a debate competition.

Lugar told the audience he was “deeply honored” to return to the school.

“I have sentimental memories,” he said.