SMITHFIELD, R.I. (AP) – Former President George H.W. Bush delivered an optimistic commencement address at Bryant University, telling about 750 graduating seniors that “seeing all of you … reaffirms my optimism in my country’s future.”

Bush says he does not believe in the pessimistic talk because he believes that the United States is the greatest nation on the earth. He urged all graduates to contribute to the overall well-being of the country.

He also urged the students to strive for morality after graduation, saying character matters as much as knowledge.

Before delivering Bryant’s commencement address, Bush, a former U.S. liaison to China, spoke at an unveiling of a tabletop model of a Beijing palace.

Bryant’s U.S.-China Institute is trying to raise enough money to use build a lifesize replica of the Shu Fang Zhai hall on its campus.

At Simmons College in Boston, model and actress-turned-activist Bianca Jagger criticized current President George Bush for what she called an erosion of civil liberties under his administration.

“What is most disturbing about Bush’s philosophy is his belief that civil liberties can become subject to cancellation in times of crisis, in contradiction to the Constitution that seeks to protect rights the founding fathers deemed inalienable,” said the former wife of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger.

She called the Iraq War “immoral, illegal and unwinnable,” and urged graduates to “help sustain life on earth, with all its beauty and diversity, and to speak up for peace and justice between the world’s peoples and countries.”

At Babson College, NCAA President Myles Brand told graduates that the secret to happiness is not money or career. “I have a message for you that is vital to your happiness: treat others with respect and compassion. In doing so you will make a moral difference,” he said.

Dr. Tenley Albright urged Springfield College graduates not to be afraid of trying new things.

“Remember,” said the surgeon and blood plasma researcher who won a figure skating gold medal in the 1956 Winter Olympics after overcoming polio. “As you build your stories through your experiences, that the sweet is sweeter for the bitter, even though it may not be until we get to that sweeter side to appreciate that.”

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