Mexico President Felipe Calderon Sunday urged Stanford University graduates to use "the best tools and most advanced knowledge" to fight poverty and climate change.
Speaking to 4,941 graduates and their families in the university's 120th commencement, Calderon told students to give meaning to their lives by embracing "with passion the things that you believe in."
A handful of demonstrators, as well as a banner trailing from a plane overhead, alluded to the 40,000 who have died in the Mexican government's battle with drug cartels since Calderon took office in 2006.
"Be sure of your principles and never, never give up on them," Calderon told the crowd assembled in Stanford Stadium.
In a traditional, university-wide ceremony that filled nearly half the 50,000-seat stadium, Stanford conferred 1,720 bachelor's degrees; 2,167 master's degrees and 1,054 doctoral degrees. Individual diplomas were awarded later Sunday in smaller, departmental ceremonies scattered around campus.
Thirty percent of the graduate degrees, and 6.5 percent of the undergraduate degrees, went to students from outside the United States, Stanford President John Hennessy said, representing 42 countries among undergraduates and 82 countries among graduate students.
Wearing assorted themed costumes and accompanied by the Stanford Band, undergraduates entered the stadium waving and dancing in their traditionally festive "Wacky Walk."
Get-ups ranged from In 'n Out staff costumes to three women as cardboard railroad cars with the lettering "I think I can."
Another group evoked the Dr. Seuss graduation classic, "Oh, the Places You'll Go."
Blown-up palm trees and plastic pools were a common theme.
Several came dressed as college food staples: Cup of Noodles, Starbucks coffee and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
One graduate held up a sign: "My name is David. Hire me. email@example.com.
Many carried banners that simply read, "Thanks, Mom and Dad."
In the ceremonial presentation of candidates to Hennessy, Medical School Dean Philip A. Pizzo commemorated student Emma Banks, who entered medical school after a career in astrophysics but died of cancer in February.
"Her greatest hope was to receive this degree," Pizzo said.
Calderon told graduates it is a "false dilemma" to believe the world must choose between economic growth and preserving nature.
"I'm positive that both gaps (that between rich and poor, and that between man and nature) can and must be lowered at the same time.
"To achieve this, the world needs the best students, the best scientists, the best minds and souls."
He cited Stanford research that has found a way to use nanotechnology to purify water, as well as a Mexican government program that pays indigenous communities to replant forests that have been destroyed.
"We've proven it is possible to stop deforestation and, at the same time, alleviate poverty," he said.
"With all of your learning, I'm sure you can design solutions and public policies to prevent deforestation and degradation."
Hennessy presented the Walter J. Gores Faculty Achievement Awards to Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology Robert Siegel; Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Pavle Levi; electrical engineering doctoral student Raj Bhatnagar and law student Daniel Tsubasa Blocksom.
Lloyd Dinkelspiel Awards for outstanding service to undergraduate education went to Haas Center for Public Service development officer Suzanne Abel; Black Community Center director and Associate Dean of Students Jan Barker-Alexander; senior Aysha Nicholson Bagchi and senior Charles Augustine Syms IV.
The Kenneth Cuthbertson Award for exceptional service to Stanford went to Biology Department Student Services Manager Valerie Kiszka.
Citing the "rights, responsibilities and privileges associated with a degree from Stanford," Hennessy closed by remembering Ruth Levinson Halperin of Atherton, who died in 2008.
Halperin, a political science graduate from the class of 1947, served on the Stanford Board of Trustees and led fundraising efforts to rebuild Stanford's art museum after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Halperin "had a habit of knitting during board meetings, providing a calming presence along with her many observations," Hennessy said.
"She had a powerful intellect, and the ability to cut to the heart of any matter."