By Sarah Carlson, Arts Editor
Marc Ravalomanana, president of Madagascar, was welcomed to ACU at a luncheon Sunday in the Teague Special Events Center as he visited the campus and the 24 Malagasy students sent here on a presidential scholarship.
Wearing a black cowboy hat, Ravalomanana walked into Teague in between 80 tables of guests, ranging from congressmen and government officials to ACU administrators, faculty and students, smiling and waving to the crowd of about 640 people.
“I have heard that things are bigger in Texas, and your hospitality is no exception,” Ravalomanana said later during the luncheon.
The president toured the campus with Dr. Royce Money, president of the university, Sunday morning and said at the luncheon he was impressed with the facilities at ACU and the advanced technology.
“What impressed me most about ACU is the heart and soul of its people,” he said. “You are committed to doing your best and at the same time, are faithful to God. That is very important to me as a Christian businessman.”
Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald read a proclamation for the city declaring Feb. 6 President Marc Ravalomanana Day, and State Rep. Bob Hunter, senior vice president emeritus, presented him with a citation from the state of Texas. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, presented the president with an American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in honor of Ravalomanana; his wife received a tray with the U.S. House of Representatives seal engraved on it, and one other item was presented – a Texas bumper sticker.
“I don’t know what kind of vehicle you have back in Madagascar, but I know that this would look really good on the back of it,” Neugebauer said.
The luncheon was sponsored by ACU, the U.S.-Madagascar Business Council and World Christian Broadcasting, of which Dr. John Tyson, vice president of development, is a board member. Tyson visited Madagascar in November 2003 on the first trade mission of the U.S.-Madagascar Business Council representing World Christian Broadcasting, a communication ministry that broadcasts from a station in Alaska over shortwave radio to reach various parts of the world, including Russia and China.
Tyson met Ravalomanana during the trip, and after telling him about ACU, the president was inspired to send students here to raise leaders for Madagascar.
World Christian Broadcasting is looking to build a broadcast tower in Madagascar, a location that would enable them to reach 3 billion shortwave radios worldwide.
Earl Young, president of the U.S.-Madagascar Business Council, spoke at the luncheon, thanking Ravalomanana for his support in the process of building a transmitter and broadcast tower in his country.
Tyson introduced the various speakers throughout the luncheon, including Money, who said the Malagasy students’ arrival to ACU upheld the university’s mission of educating students to change the world.
“Once again, we’ve witnessed the working of God with the coming of these wonderful students,” Money said.
One such Malagasy student, Joelly Rasamoelina, freshman sociology major, spoke on behalf of the 24 students, thanking both Ravalomanana and the ACU community.
“Mr. President, we all would like to thank you for what you’ve done,” Rasamoelina said. “The scholarship means a lot to us, and it has been something that we’ve always dreamed about.
“We would like to give thanks to every single member of the ACU family for all that you’ve done to help us adjust to life in America. We know that so many people are working hard to make our lives easier, and we really appreciate it.”