ABC News’ Sarah Kunin (@sarah_kunin) reports:
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was greeted at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H., like the rock star he once aspired to be. The former ambassador to China delivered the Southern New Hampshire University commencement speech to a crowd of more than 1,000 graduates and 5,000 guests.
He began by thanking the university, “for giving an honorary doctorate for someone whose initial passion in life was simply to be a rock and roll musician. I thought it was my ticket to fame. I even ended up leaving high school a bit short of graduation to play in a band called Wizard.”
“You probably have heard some of our songs, or maybe not, since there never were any Wizard songs, publicly released,” he said.
Huntsman continued to name-drop other, more prominent musicians who have stood on the same stage — including Sting, Rod Stewart, Justin Bieber — before taking on a clearly political tone.
“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,” Huntsman said. “The dissidents around the world see this. Sometimes we are too close to appreciate its impact.”
Huntsman reflected on his time spent as ambassador to China.
“You hear how the Chinese economy is going to swamp us. Don’t believe it," he said. "China has its own problems. And we have our own strengths. I mean, there is a reason that Google was started in America and not Russia or Germany or China.
“If we Americans remain civil to each other we can deal with our problems, including the debt crisis that is hanging over us," he said. "After the shooting in Tucson when Rep. Giffords was injured, we talked seriously about civility. Many Republicans and Democrats even sat together at the State of the Union.
“Now, if we can just sit together and solve our problems.”
One thing noticeably absent from Huntsman’s address: the announcement of a presidential run.
“You might know this has had intense media coverage because there are a lot of people who think he will be a wonderful president,” SNHU president Paul LeBlanc said. “In 2007 the last guy they talked about is now sitting in the white house. If you’d like to make an announcement we’d be happy to hear it.”
“Talk about putting somebody on the spot,” Huntsman replied as he stepped up to the microphone. “The only announcement I have here today is to say that your president, President LeBlanc, looks pretty darn studly in the bling that he’s got around his neck.”
While he may not have taken on a new title of presidential candidate, Huntsman claimed full ownership of his honorary doctorate of law, awarded to him by the university.
“I want to have my two daughters stand up,” he said, turning to daughters Gracie and Liddy in the audience. “I’d like you to know who they are, raise your right hand girls. I promise that from now on I will only refer to my dad as Dr. Huntsman. You may be seated.”