Former US President Bill Clinton has told scholarship award winners that he himself got his education thanks to a scholarship programme.
The 42nd US president made his comments in Limerick where he was guest speaker at the JP McManus sponsored All-Ireland Scholarship Awards at the University of Limerick.
VIP guests at the Concert Hall included businessmen, Dermot Desmond and Denis O’Brien, Martin McAleese, and Finance Minister Michael Noonan.
JP McManus secured Mr Clinton as guest of honour for a reported figure of $250,000 (€190,000).
There was a media blackout for the ceremony. Just 600 guests were invited, including the scholarship recipients and their families.
A total of 125 students were presented by Mr Clinton with their bursaries worth €6,750 for each year of their studies and sponsored by JP McManus.
In his address, Mr Clinton recalled how he had received three scholarships, which enabled him to study at Oxford and Yale universities.
He told the students they might not yet realise the significance of the gift they had been given and told them to look at education as a set of “opportunities”. He said the recession will end but their education will endure. “Nobody ever got anywhere by expecting tomorrow to be like yesterday,” he added.
Twins Niamh and Eadaoin O’Donovan, from Fermoy, Co Cork, were among the scholarship recipients. The 19-year-old former pupils of Loreto Secondary School, Fermoy, both achieved over 600 points in their Leaving Certificate.
“We feel privileged, and it takes a lot of stress off our parents, especially for the next three years of college, and the opportunities it will bring will be great,” said Eadaoin, who is studying education and psychology at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick.
President Clinton also presented Danny Coghlan from Cork with a commemorative gift to recognise the fact that he is the 700th winner of a JP McManus sponsored third-level educational bursary. There are now 749 scholars throughout the 32 counties who have received bursaries.
JP McManus congratulated this year’s winners and said: “Access to third-level education should enhance and develop individual abilities. It is our fervent hope, that the young people here today will embrace the opportunity now presented, achieve fulfilment and success in life but also become a resource for the betterment of our nation’s future.
“The fact that President Clinton has first-hand experience of ‘All Ireland’ issues and has spoken many times of the need for all island inclusiveness, certainly dovetails with the ideals behind our scholarship programme,” he said.
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