WEST HARTFORD, Connecticut (AP) -- President Francisco Flores of El
Salvador recalled the troubles of his homeland in the late 1970s and explained in a
speech to university graduates Sunday how his education had helped him
overcome feelings of uncertainty and exile.
Flores, the first University of Hartford alumnus to lead a nation, told
graduates and hundreds of other audience members that he was "assaulted" by
memories when he returned to the campus. He first arrived in Hartford in
"My parents' somber faces at the airport in San Salvador concealed deeper
than those normally associated with a farewell to a 17-year-old," he said. "Those
were difficult times for me and my country. After decades of military rule, El
Salvador was fast headed to the deepest conflict in its history: a civil war that
would last more than a decade, and that, with its blind violence, would affect
every single Salvadoran family."
In presenting Flores with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, Life Regent
Jack Gray told the Central American leader that he was an inspiration to both the
people of El Salvador and the students at the university.
"You represent the sort of student the university seeks to serve," said
President Robert B. Wallace.
Flores, a member of the Republican National Alliance, was elected president
Salvador on March 7, 1999, by an overwhelming margin. He is part of a new
political generation that had little direct role in the 12-year civil war that ended in
1992 and cost 70,000 lives.
He told students to seek truth and creativity and to "resist the temptation
lost in placid generality of the group."
"I went back to my country in the worst years of the war," he said. "I
something greater than my past, greater than my roots, greater than my identity.
I found my country. I found my happiness. May you, dear graduates, find
Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.