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U.N. secretary-general tapped as University of South Carolina commencement speaker

April 25, 2017 GMT

COLUMBIA — The secretary-general of the United Nations has been tapped as this year’s commencement speaker for the University of South Carolina.

Antonio Guterres will be at the school May 6 to receive an honorary degree and to deliver a speech during the university’s commencement at Colonial Life Arena.

“We are honored that the U.N. secretary-general has decided to visit Columbia and speak to our graduates,” USC President Harris Pastides said Monday.

“This is a rare opportunity for students to hear from a consummate diplomat, civil servant and human rights advocate who is immersed on a daily basis in the most critical issues facing our world today.”

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Guterres’ speaking engagement comes several months after former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley resigned her seat and was confirmed as President Donald Trump’s new ambassador to the United Nations.

But USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said it was actually a USC student who was interning at the U.N. that helped recruit the Portuguese diplomat as a commencement speaker.

Guterres’ appearance in Columbia also comes several months after USC announced the school would be starting a new tradition by having Pastides deliver the address “in lieu of an outside speaker.”

At the time, university communications staff said the change was made to refocus commencement activities on students and families, rather than a big-name speaker.

In their announcement Monday, USC officials said Guterres’ speech was a unique occasion because he is a “highly-distinguished speaker.”