First lady Barbara Bush asked graduates in North Carolina to follow in the footsteps of Frederick Douglass and help people "enslaved by ignorance," while Syracuse University paid tribute to the students who died in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
In other commencements Sunday, Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee Iacocca declared "The American Century" is over and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor advised graduates that the key to rising to the top is spending time at the bottom."Someday in your lives, the walls will part and you'll see a little Frederick Douglass," Mrs. Bush said at Bennett College, a predominantly black, liberal arts school for women in Greensboro, N.C.
Mrs. Bush, who was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters, said Douglass had been one of her heroes since she read the autobiography of the one-time slave who became a scholar and writer.
The first lady said she was particularly struck by Douglass' account of overhearing his owner admonishing his wife not to teach slaves to read because it would make them impossible to control.
"Frederick Douglass' revelation holds true today," Mrs. Bush said. "There are many types of slavery, and education is the key to freedom."
Graduation ceremonies at Syracuse began with a moment of silence for the 35 students in the university's international program who died when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Scotland last December.
In the address, U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan told more than 5,000 graduates of the Class of 1989 "(you) might just hug yourselves for sheer luck" at leaving college at a time when totalitarianism is ending.
O'Connor, the first woman Supreme Court justice, told the 210 graduates of Rockford College in Rockford, Ill., how a job collecting unpaid grocery bills in a law office taught her to "do the best you can, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time.
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney told graduates at the University of Wyoming in Laramie that President Bush's decision to send an additional 2,000 U.S. troops to Panama was "a step that a prudent man would take."