Mahmoud Salem, Egyptian blogger and activist, will speak to USF graduates at commencement.
The University of San Francisco will honor Egypt’s youth for
their role in the pro-democratic overthrow of a repressive regime as well as an
outspoken leader for U.S. immigration reform by bestowing on them honorary
doctor of humane letters degrees at the university’s upcoming commencement
exercises beginning May 19.
The now famous Egyptian blogger and tweeter, Mahmoud Salem,
better known by his handle @sandmonkey, who took part in the Egyptian
revolution, will accept an honorary degree during the School of Nursing’s
graduation on behalf of the Egyptian youth who led the way in overthrowing ousted
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime using peaceful methods in January and
Salem, 29, and a graduate of Northeastern University, became
front page news during the uprising as thousands of followers and members of
the media followed his writings about events as they happened. Several days
into the revolution, Salem revealed his identity to the public, going on
television to report that he was beaten by a mob of Mubarak supporters, his car
was destroyed, and he was arrested by the police who he thought would protect
him from the mob.
“For 18 days, beginning on Jan. 25 2011, in the face of
severe repression which took more than 800 lives, pro-democracy forces
courageously faced down the bullets, tear gas, truncheons, and water canons in
their quest for liberty,” according to the honorary degree citation. “The bold
actions of a relatively small number of young activists were finally embraced
by millions who, inspired by their non-violent actions, were no longer afraid.”
Salem, who is flying from Cairo, will accept the award from
USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J. on the Egyptian youth’s
behalf and speak at the School of Nursing graduation at 6 p.m. May 19.
Isabel Castillo, an activist and advocate for the DREAM
(Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, legislation that is
once again making news, will be honored at the College of Arts and Sciences
arts, architecture, performing arts, and social sciences graduation at 12 p.m.
May 20. The DREAM Act would provide legal standing to undocumented college
students whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally when they were
An example of those whose rights she fights for, Castillo
was 6 years old when her parents brought her to the U.S. from Mexico. She
excelled at school but found it difficult to gain entrance to college and
impossible to receive financial aid because she lacked a social security
number. Even after graduating with high academic honors in social work, she has
been unable to find work in her field without a social security number.
Castillo has led rallies, organized a march on Washington
D.C., and staged a non-violent sit-in at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s
(D-NV) office, which led to her arrest but not deportation. USF and 27 other
Jesuit colleges and universities, along with the nation’s Catholic bishops,
have joined her cause to formally petition the federal government for a more
humane and just immigration policy.
“We honor Isabel Castillo for her selfless courage in
advancing the cause of undocumented college students and to underscore the
fundamental unfairness of our denying a path to citizenship to some of the most
motivated college students in the country,” said Fr. Privett, who will bestow
the honorary degree on Castillo at the College of Arts and Sciences arts,
architecture, performing arts, and social sciences graduation.
Additional honorary degree recipients include Bienvenido F.
Nebres, S.J., the longest serving president of Ateneo de Manila University,
Marjorie Balazs ’69, CEO and founder of the Balazs Analytical, a leader in
semiconductor innovation, Carmen María Cervantes, the co-founder and executive
director of Instituto Fe y Vida (Faith and Life Institute), trial attorney
Joseph W. Cotchett, and Ming W. Chin ’64, JD ’67, associate justice on the
Supreme Court of California and a member of the USF Board of Trustees.
A total of 2,071 students have been invited to commencement,
including 995 undergraduates, 808 master’s candidates, 28 doctoral candidates,
and 240 law graduates. At the same time, U.S. Army R.O.T.C will commission 18
cadets as officers.
For a complete list of USF graduation Mass and ceremony
times, speakers, and honorary degree recipients click here.