Intel Chief Gives Vt. Commencement Talk

The Associated Press
Monday, June 5, 2006; 1:06 PM

ST JOHNSBURY, Vt. -- National Intelligence Director John Negroponte urged graduates of a private high school Monday to appreciate and take full advantage of the human ability to communicate.

In a brief speech, Negroponte said words had profoundly shaped human history, giving people "the ability to express feelings, to record events, to plan ahead, to resolve differences and to share a common identity."

"You have been empowered to express yourselves, to get to know one another, to define your aspirations and to understand and respect your differences," he said.

Negroponte, a former U.S. ambassador, is the first director of National Intelligence, a position designed to oversee the country's different intelligence agencies.

He made no reference to foreign policy or the controversy over the government's domestic eavesdropping program during his speech at St. Johnsbury Academy, where his son John was one of the graduates.

About 75 peace activists stood outside in the drizzle holding signs and giving speeches, alleging that Negroponte was a key player in abusive U.S. foreign policies from Central America in the 1980s to Iraq today.

"It's outrageous that he's being given a position of honor in our community," said Brian Tokar of East Montpelier.

Police arrested four protesters, two who were removed from the hall while heckling during Negroponte's speech and two who ventured onto what police said was the academy's private property.

After the second heckler was hustled out by security, Negroponte drew a laugh when he said, "I think you'll all be very grateful that I have a very short speech."

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