As he flirts with a Republican presidential run, former ambassador to China and governor of Utah Jon Huntsman again invoked the notion that he offers a fresh option.
“Our system needs new thinking,” he told a 1,150-strong University of South Carolina graduating class today in a commencement speech at Colonial Life Arena. “We need a fresh generation of innovators, leaders, risk takers.”
A day earlier, Huntsman told reporters after a private meeting with Gov. Nikki Haley that Americans are seeking a “new set of eyeballs” in politics.
His 17-minute address was not a direct political call to action. Mostly he called on graduates to define themselves, risk failure and reminded them that the United States “is still the envy of the world. We are still as full of potential as ever.”
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Huntsman, 51, stepped down a week ago as ambassador, a post to which he was appointed in a cross-party move by President Obama.
The commencement address was Huntsman’s first public speech after creating a federal political action committee earlier in the week as a possible prelude to a presidential candidacy. South Carolina holds one of the earliest Republican presidential primaries, and GOP voters here have played major roles in choosing the party’s nominee.
His appearance drew reporters from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the national Associated Press corps, ABC News and Reuters among others.
As governor, Huntsman was known for his free-market policies. He stepped down just into his second term to accept the ambassadorship.