The George Washington University’s graduation on the Mall was peaceful Sunday morning, with a modest protest against a billionaire honorary degree recipient barely impacting the ceremony.
Not a cloud was in the sky nor a protester could be heard as approximately 7,000 students received their degrees. As 25,000 people gathered for the event, hundreds of people protesting Mexican telecommunications giant Carlos Slim stood nearby on the grounds of the Washington Monument but did little to disrupt his speech.
As Slim stood to receive an honorary doctorate of Public Service, a chorus of horns erupted. Slim didn’t miss a beat, delivering his speech in soft tones.
“When you give, do not expect to receive,” Slim said. “God forgives our sins, but not our services.”
GWU officials said they chose to honor Slim for his community development efforts in Latin America and his extensive philanthropy. Critics call Slim a monopolist who crossed ethical lines in making his fortune and has not done enough to help developing countries.
Ricardo Juarez protested Slim on Sunday because he believes he made his fortunes at the expense of the poor.
“Today we are demanding that George Washington not give Carlos Slim an award,” Juarez said. “As far we know he made money on others.”
One of the loudest rounds of applause at the ceremony came for student speaker Noreen Kassam, who said it is time for George Washington students, who have experienced so much while at the university, to give back
“Let us begin by impacting the lives of those who come after us... Take what you have learned to change the world,” Kassam said. “I hope you do well, but more importantly I hope you do good.”