Laura Bush Speaks at Roger Williams University Commencement

First Lady Laura Bush said Saturday that, more than previous generations, this year's college graduates are faced with solving problems that lie beyond the nation's borders.

Bush, speaking to about 900 graduating students of Roger Williams University, said because the world is so interconnected, disasters such as the tsunami in South East Asia, genocide in Darfur, Sudan, and other injustices can't be ignored.

"You can't neglect millions of people around the world living under tyranny," Bush said at the university's 50th commencement ceremony.

About two dozen anti-war protesters rallied about a half-mile from the university entrance before the ceremony, holding signs such as "Love the soldier, hate the war."

Bush has worked to improve the status of women in Afghanistan, and developed relationships with three Afghan women who graduated from Roger Williams on Saturday.

During her address, Bush praised the school for its community service at home and abroad.

She spoke about a Roger Williams student, Youmna Deiri, who spent a week in New Orleans with a group of volunteers from the school to help rebuild an elderly women's house after it was ruined during Hurricane Katrina.

She also mentioned Paula Nirschel, wife of Roger Williams' president Roy Nirschel, who in 2002 started a program to educate Afghan women. It was the first program in the country to provide college scholarships to Afghan women after U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban in response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Under the Taliban, women were prohibited from going to school after age 8.

This year, six Afghan women are the first to graduate from the program, including the three from Roger Williams — Nadima Sahar, Arezo Kohistani and Mahbooba Babrakzai.

Bush got to know the women after learning about them through media reports. In her speech, she spoke of how they've excelled in their studies and extra-curriculum activities.

"Someday the world will know these women as accomplished Afghan leaders, but today the Roger Williams class of 2006 knows them as classmates, teammates, roommates and friends," Bush said.

Bush said their time in America can have effects abroad.

"What they learn about America from you will help build a lasting friendship between the people of United States and Afghanistan," she said. "With your dedication to others, you'll always have a big impact on the world, and you'll find happiness along the way."