Manchester, N.H. – Jon Huntsman continued to test the president waters in New Hampshire today, delivering an upbeat commencement speech that celebrated America’s enduring exceptionalism.
“Anyone who has bet against this country in the long term has lost his money,” Huntsman told the class of 2011 at Southern New Hampshire University.
Huntsman, who stepped down as U.S. ambassador to China at the end of April, emphasized his foreign policy experience. In contrast to Donald Trump, who sought to capitalize on the nation’s growing unease over China’s economic surge by proposing a trade war during his brief, bombastic flirtation with the presidency, Huntsman argued that America’s international future was vibrant.
“You hear how the Chinese economy is going to swamp us,” Huntsman said. “Don’t believe it.”
“There is a reason that Google was started in America and not Russia or Germany or China,” he added.
Instead, Huntsman contended that Americans underestimate the nation’s enduring strength — and the inspiration it serves as to many across the world.
“Here at home, listening to cable news 24/7, it’s easy to forget that our nation still pulses with a vital, life-enriching energy that comes from the very freedom we breathe,” he said. “The dissidents around the world see this.”
Huntsman would know. Talking about his time in China, he spoke movingly of his encounters with Chinese dissidents.
Before launching into the serious tenor of his speech, Huntsman displayed a jocular side. In response to SNHU president Paul LeBlanc’s hint that Huntsman might have an announcement to make today, Huntsman laughingly replied that the only announcement he had to make was how “studly” Le Blanc looked in the “bling” (a medallion) he was wearing for the ceremony.
Huntsman, who received an honorary doctorate from the university, also teasingly asked his two daughters, Elizabeth and Grace, who were present, to pledge to only call him “Dr. Huntsman” in the future. Alluding to his teenage rock star aspirations, Huntsman spoke about the honor of speaking at an arena where Elton John and Justin Bieber had preformed.
The speech constituted the pinnacle of Huntsman’s five-day sweep through the Granite State, as he works to introduce himself to voters. The trip, which began Thursday and concludes Monday, includes a mix of gathering at homes and events held at local restaurants and veterans halls.
The choice of Huntsman for speaker marks the second time in recent years that SNHU has featured a presidential contender as commencement speaker. In 2007, Barack Obama delivered the commencement speech. Huntsman must hope, though, that the similarities end there: Obama placed second in the New Hampshire primary in 2008, trailing Hillary Clinton.