Students who graduated Saturday from Pacific Lutheran University got a royal send-off.
The King of Norway, His Majesty King Harald V, delivered the keynote address at the commencement ceremony for nearly 800 students at the Tacoma Dome in honor of the school’s 125th anniversary.
In his address, the king emphasized the strong connection between Norway and PLU — the school was founded by Norwegian immigrants in 1890.
An avid environmentalist, the king also put in a plug for the planet. He asked graduates to take leadership roles in taking care of the Earth.
“My generation has little to show for itself when it comes to taking care of the environment and our climate,” the 78-year-old monarch said. “My hope is that your generation will do better.”
“Highly motivated young people are already making a difference and pushing their governments to do more,” he said. “I hope you will take part in raising awareness about the urgency of the environmental challenges that we are facing.”
King Harald’s remarks about climate change — he called it “one of the greatest challenges of our time” — drew applause from graduates and the several thousand people who gathered at the Dome for the occasion.
PLU President Thomas Krise presented King Harald with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
The king drew laughter from the crowd when he recalled that his wife received an honorary doctorate when they last visited PLU 20 years ago — a fact, he said, that she has reminded him of several times.
“Finally the queen and I are equal,” he said. “At least on your campus.”
Earlier in the day, the king and his entourage strolled through the PLU campus, where they were greeted by about 300 people, some of whom stood in light rain for over an hour awaiting his arrival.
Many of those waiting to see the king carried Norwegian flags and wore traditional lusekofte sweaters.
Some had traveled a considerable distance. Magnus Lovaas, 17, a Norwegian exchange student attending high school in Woodland, made the trip to PLU with his host mother, Debbie Shoup.
“I lived 16 years of my life in Norway and never had the opportunity to see him,” Lovaas said. “Now I get a chance to see him halfway around the world.”
After the king walked past, at a distance of just a few feet, Lovaas said, “It was cool to see him up close. He looks like a nice guy.”
At a midmorning reception, King Harald chatted easily with about 30 PLU students, most of whom were either American students majoring in Norwegian or Scandinavian studies or Norwegian exchange students.
Later, at a private luncheon in the Scandinavian Cultural Center, about 300 guests raised glasses of champagne to the monarch, toasting him with “Long live the king,” and “Skol.”
The king also visited Seattle on his trip. On Friday, at Pacific Fishermen Shipyard in Ballard, he visited with Sig Hansen, a crab fisherman made famous by the television show “Deadliest Catch.”
The king was scheduled to travel to Anchorage, Alaska, on Sunday. He’ll also visit Homer before returning to Norway on Thursday.