“Worldwide Service, Commitment, and Compassion: Honoring Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Vice Admiral Adam M. Robinson”

Indiana Memorial Union
Federal Room
December 17, 2010

Toast (before dinner)

I am delighted to welcome you all to this evening of celebration in honor of our distinguished guests Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Vice Admiral Adam M. Robinson. We will have more formal remarks a little later in the evening.

Now would you please join me in raising your glasses to the remarkable accomplishments of our distinguished guests. In different ways, both have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of people around the world, and both represent the highest levels of compassion, commitment, and integrity.

To Her Royal Highness and the Vice Admiral.

Please enjoy your meal.

Welcome and Acknowledgements

Again, thank you all for coming this evening. Would you all please join me in thanking Maggie Grove, a doctoral student in harp performance in the Jacobs School of Music?

We are pleased that several particularly distinguished guests could join us this evening.

Would you please help me welcome our trustees?  I am also pleased to welcome the Honorable Lee Hamilton and his wife Nancy.

I am also pleased to recognize the distinguished guests who have accompanied tonight’s guests of honor.  Would you please help me welcome the members of Her Royal Highness’ party who are here with us this evening?

Would you also help me welcome His Excellency the Ambassador of Thailand to the United States Kittiphong Na Ranong and the Honorable Consul General of Thailand from the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Chicago, Narong Sasitorn?  I am also pleased to welcome Dr. Juree Vichit-Vadakan, President of the National Institute of Development in Thailand.

I am also delighted that members of Admiral Robinson’s family could join us this evening.  Would you please help me welcome Dr. Robinson’s wife Ms. Yuko Robinson, his mother Mrs. Hilda B. Robinson, his brother Lieutenant George Robinson of the IU Police Department, and Lieutenant Robinson’s wife Ms. Kathy Robinson?

Ties Between Indiana University and the People of Thailand

In his autobiography Being Lucky, Indiana University’s legendary eleventh president Herman B Wells wrote with deep warmth, affection, and pride about the longstanding and productive partnership between IU and the people of Thailand.  That connection dates back to 1948 and is one of the longest official relationships IU has with our global partners.  Since that time, dozens of IU faculty members have lent their expertise and support to educational development in Thailand, including Joseph Sutton and John Ryan, both of whom later served as presidents of this university.  And dozens of Thai citizens have travelled to Bloomington over the years to study a wide variety of subjects in preparation for positions of responsibility they would later hold in Thailand. 

Over the years, this partnership has yielded a generation of senior-level Thai administrators, including a number of college presidents, who have received advanced training at IU.  It has led to stronger teacher education and public administration programs within Thailand.  And it led, in 1966, to the establishment of the National Institute for Development Administration, or NIDA, established by royal proclamation and given university status a short time later.  Since that time, NIDA has trained thousands of the Thai government’s top executives and diplomats for service across the country and around the world.

Honoring Her Royal Highness Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

Tonight we renew and strengthen those many years of productive partnership as we honor Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who will be receiving an honorary doctorate at tomorrow’s commencement ceremony.

As a member of the royal family of Thailand, Princess Sirindhorn could have lived a life eased by wealth and privilege.  Instead, from her earliest days, she has chosen to use her position to promote education, social progress, and humanitarianism.

Her Royal Highness describes herself as “entirely a product of the Thai education system.”1 She has a bachelor’s in history, a master’s in Sanskrit and Cambodian and another in Sanskrit and Pali, and her doctorate in educational development. Her doctoral thesis is titled “Development of an Innovative Design for the Instruction of Thai Language at the Upper Secondary School Level.” 

That education has laid the foundation for her approach to project management, which includes research, data analysis, surveys, and careful planning. Whether she is working to improve child nutrition or helping children with disabilities; providing disaster relief or preserving Thai musical traditions; overseeing the restoration of Thai historical treasures or helping to preserve the Thai language, she demonstrates her prudent management of resources and true humanitarianism of the highest order.

Described as a fine and insightful scholar, Princess Sirindhorn began teaching in 1979 and currently serves as the Director of the Department of History at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. 

Beginning in her youth, she accompanied her parents on their visits to remote areas of Thailand where they learned first-hand about the problems facing Thailand’s less fortunate citizens.  This experience, no doubt, has shaped her approach to the many humanitarian causes to which she has dedicated her life.

She currently runs a number of philanthropic organizations and foundations. She has served as Executive Vice President of the Thai Red Cross Society since 1977.

She serves as executive chair of the Ananda Mahidol Foundation, which promotes higher education and is president of the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation, which awards international prizes for outstanding achievements in the fields of medicine and public health. 

She serves as executive chair of the King Rama II Foundation, designed to conserve and promote Thai Culture, and executive chair of the Chaipattana Foundation, overseeing His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej ’s development and environmental preservation projects.

She is president of the Sai Jai Thai Foundation, which supports disabled veterans. Her Royal Highness established this foundation with her own funds and a gift from her parents when she turned twenty years old. 

Her Royal Highness has been recognized the world over for her efforts on behalf of her people. 

In 1991, she received the Magsaysay Award for Public Service. She was among the first recipients of the ASEAN Achievement Award and was honored by the ASEAN Institute for her public service. She received the GAIA International Award for Environmental Culture and the Hadrian Award from the World Monuments Fund for preservation of cultural heritage. She serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN World Food Program and for UNESCO. In 2005, she became one of only seventeen people to receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Development and Disarmament. She received the Arcangelo Cultural Prize from the Italian Cultural Association for fostering ties between Italy and Thailand and received the Chinese Language and Culture Friendship Award from the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. She has also been honored by the government of Chile for her contributions to promote Chilean literary works, language, culture, and art.  Among her most recent honors are the Chinese Connection—Top Ten International Friends of China Award and the Fulbright Caring Leader Across Cultures Award, both of which recognize her efforts to build ties between and among different cultures. 

She has received over fifteen honorary degrees from Thai universities and six honorary degrees from universities around the world. 

These many awards and honors only begin to suggest the great impact that Her Royal Highness has had on the people of her country and people the world over. 

In presenting Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn with an honorary degree, we recognize her tremendous contributions to improving the lives of people around the world. We also recognize the people of Thailand, their culture, and their heritage, all of which have become such important parts of the history of Indiana University.

It gives me great pleasure, and is a true honor, to introduce Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

Your Royal Highness, would you like to say a few words?

Introducing Vice Admiral Adam M. Robinson

Now it is my great pleasure to introduce Vice Admiral Adam M. Robinson. In many different ways, Dr. Robinson represents some of the greatest traditions of Indiana University and of this nation.

Earlier this year, Admiral Robinson addressed a group of military and civilian medical personnel at the 2010 Military Health System Conference.  In his remarks, he said, “By giving compassionate care, [military health personnel] bolster security, enhance stability, and most importantly . . . create hope. . . . Hope is the essence of what fires our souls and provides light in our world.  Hope becomes the beacon which shows us the way from darkness, abandonment and desolation to light, community and life.”2

This message of hope, dedication, and inspiration appears again and again throughout Admiral Robinson’s career as does the leadership and expertise needed to deliver on such a message.

Dr. Robinson has always been a leader. Even as an undergraduate at Indiana University, he assumed a leadership role. He was a residence assistant at Teter Quad. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and with this IU degree, Dr. Robinson upheld a family tradition. His father was a 1932 IU graduate in Chemistry and later went on to earn his medical degree from Howard University. It was his father who first brought our guest to the Bloomington campus, and as Dr. Robinson puts it, “I fell in love with the place the very first time I visited.”3  Upon his graduation, the admiral went on to graduate from the IU School of Medicine in the mid 1970s. 

More recently, he earned his Masters in Business Administration from the University of South Florida.

Since his days at IU, Dr. Robinson has dedicated himself to service, advancing through the naval ranks to become its chief medical officer. He has served in Puerto Rico, Bethesda, Maryland, and in Japan. He has served as Ship’s Surgeon on the USS Midway, the USS John F. Kennedy, and the USS Coral Sea. He has served as Head of General Surgery, Director of the General Surgery Residency Program, and Acting Medical Director for the Naval Medical Center at Portsmouth, Virginia.

He served as the Force Medical Officer for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet after which he reported to Naval Hospital Jacksonville as Executive Officer and later as Fleet Hospital Jacksonville Commanding Officer. Soon after, Dr. Robinson took up a post at the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery as the Director of Readiness, then as Deputy Chief for Medical Support Operations, and acting Chief of the Medical Corps.

He was selected the United States 36th Surgeon General of the Navy and chief of the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in 2007. In this capacity, the admiral oversees a staff of over 60,000 employees, an annual budget of $3 billion, and medical operations and services for the entire U.S. Navy.  But his responsibilities extend beyond military operations and include providing humanitarian assistance to victims of natural disaster and those displaced by war. When the 2005 tsunami hit Indonesia, the Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy was there.  That same year, the USNS Comfort provided relief after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the U.S. gulf coast.  And earlier this year, under Admiral Robinson’s leadership, the USNS Comfort deployed within days to provide relief after an earthquake devastated Haiti.

These moments of crisis test even the strongest of leaders, and Dr. Robinson has passed those tests again and again, demonstrating his leadership and expertise regardless of the challenges he is facing.

In his long and distinguished career, Dr. Robinson has earned the Distinguished and Meritorious Service Medals, the Legion of Merit, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal along with many other service and campaign awards and commendations. Dr. Robinson received the Distinguished Alumni Award for the School of Medicine in 2008.

Admiral Robinson is also a fellow in the American College of Surgeons and the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgery. He is a member of the Le Societe Internationale de Chirurgie, the Society of Black Academic Surgeons, and the National Business School Scholastic Society, Beta Gamma Sigma. He holds certification as a Certified Physician Executive from the American College of Physician Executives.

Such awards and honors highlight Dr. Robinson’s dedication to this nation’s traditions of service and leadership.

His achievements reflect the very best of Indiana University. We are delighted to add to those awards an Honorary Degree from Admiral Robinson’s alma mater, and we look forward to his remarks as commencement speaker tomorrow morning. 

It gives me great pleasure to introduce Navy Surgeon General and Chief of the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Admiral Adam M. Robinson.

Admiral Robinson, would you like to say a few words?


Thank you all for coming this evening, and I look forward to seeing you at tomorrow’s commencement ceremony.  

Source Notes

  1. Srindhorn, Maha Chakri, Her Royal Highness Princess.  “My Career in Education.” Third Thailand-US Education Roundtable. Dhurakij Pundit University, Bangkok, Thailand.  7 Nov. 2005
  2. http://www.onec.go.th/publication/49050/full49050.pdf
  3. Robinson, Adam.  “U.S. Navy:  Force for Good.”  2010 Military Health Service Conference.  National Harbor, Maryland.  25 Jan. 2010. http://www.med.navy.mil/leadership/sgvisits/Pages/SG'sSpeeches.aspx