Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.: Introduction of Juan Manuel Santos

Author: Sue Lister

For our address, it is a great pleasure for me to welcome back to Notre Dame the Honorable Juan Manuel Santos.

The President of Colombia from 2010 to 2018, this courageous and visionary statesman led his country through an arduous peace process, the first phase of which culminated in the signing of the historic Colombian Peace Agreement on November 24, 2016. This accord is celebrated as a major turning point in the country’s 52-year long armed conflict.

President Santos, in 2016, was the sole recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his pivotal role in ending the longest war in the Western Hemisphere. His speech to the Nobel committee in Oslo City Hall on December 10 of that year—delivered only two weeks after the final agreement was signed and one week after the Colombian Congress overwhelmingly ratified it—was eloquent and wise.

"It is much harder to make peace than to wage war,” he said, reminding his audience that the efforts to find peace through dialogue began 34 years earlier, and included multiple setbacks.  Yet, he said, “a final victory through force, when nonviolent alternatives exist, is none other than the defeat of the human spirit.”  When at all possible, we must pursue “dialogue…based on respect for the dignity of all.

In his Nobel Prize speech, President Santos acknowledged the work of the scholars of the Kroc Institute here at Notre Dame. We are proud and humbled that the Peace Agreement gives the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute primary responsibility for technical verification and monitoring of implementation of the accord.

While President Santos has received many other recognitions for his work to promote peace, it is worth noting that he has also been recognized for his pioneering environmental policies to protect his country’s biodiversity and fight climate change.  He was awarded the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew International Medal, the Wildlife Conservation Society Theodore Roosevelt Award for Conservation Leadership, and was honored by the National Geographic Society for his unwavering commitment to conservation.

President Santos, with gratitude for your persistent and successful efforts to launch a peace process that stands as a beacon of hope to a world engulfed in deadly conflicts, Notre Dame is proud to welcome you as our commencement speaker. President Santos.