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Warren M. Christopher to Speak at Commencement

The Hon. Warren M. Christopher

WARREN M. CHRISTOPHER, former U.S. secretary of state, will receive an honorary doctorate and deliver the commencement address at USC’s 116th graduation ceremony Friday, May 14.

President Steven B. Sample will confer the honorary degree – a doctorate of humane letters, honoris causa – along with more than 8,200 degrees to graduating students in ceremonies beginning at 8:30 a.m. in USC’s Alumni Memorial Park. The event will be simultaneously Webcast on the Internet, enabling families around the world to watch and listen.

Christopher, who was awarded the Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest non-military honor – by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, served in the Clinton Cabinet from 1993 to 1997 as the 63rd U.S. secretary of state.

In four travel-wearying years on the job, he oversaw a foreign policy that succeeded in freezing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, suspending a bloody war in Bosnia and encouraging Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization to reach interim agreements.

The Associated Press described him in 1996 as a secretary of state who used quiet persuasion instead of table thumping to get his point across.

Although contemporary critics complained that Clinton’s foreign policy lacked dramatic initiatives, Christopher took pride in what he termed the “triple play” of the NAFTA trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, the expansion of U.S. economic ties to Pacific Rim nations and the GATT accord on international tariffs and trade.

“Being secretary of state is to take part in history’s relay race,” Christopher said upon announcing his retirement from the job.

As deputy secretary of state under Jimmy Carter, Christopher was credited with skillfully negotiating the release of 52 American hostages in Iran. He spearheaded the normalization of relations with China, helped win ratification of the Panama Canal treaties, and headed the first interagency group on human rights.

Before joining the Clinton administration, Christopher was chairman of the Los Angeles-based law firm of O’Melveny & Myers, where he now continues to serve as a senior partner.

In 1991 Christopher chaired the independent commission on the Los Angeles Police Department – known popularly as the Christopher Commission – which proposed significant reforms of the Los Angeles Police Department in the aftermath of the Rodney King incident. The reforms were approved overwhelmingly by public referendum in 1992.

From 1965 to 1966, Christopher served as vice chairman of the Governor’s Commission on the Los Angeles Riots under Gov. Edmund G. Brown Sr., and later served as special counsel to Brown.

Christopher is a past president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, a former member of the board of governors of the State Bar of California and a former director and vice chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations.

A California native, he earned his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in 1945 from the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and his law degree from Stanford University in 1949.

OTHERS TO RECEIVE HONORARY DEGREES Friday, May 14, are philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., civil rights activist Rosa Parks and philanthropist Flora L. Thornton. The processional march starts at 8:30 a.m., and the ceremony begins at 9 a.m. in Alumni Memorial Park.

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