Huntsman tells grads: "Never forget to rock 'n' roll"

Former U.S. Ambassador to China and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman adresses the audience at the commencement ceremony for the University of South Carolina on Saturday, May 7 2011 in Columbia, S.C. Huntsman, weighing a Republican White House bid, used his first formal event after stepping down as President Barack Obama's ambassador to China to confront the line on his resume that conservatives were mostly likely to declare a deal-breaker. In the high-profile speech to the University of South Carolina, Huntsman said patriotism should trump partisanship and defended his two years in Beijing as the Democratic administration's top diplomat. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
Mary Ann Chastain
Former U.S. Ambassador to China and ex-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman addresses the audience at the commencement ceremony for the University of South Carolina Saturday, May 7, 2011, in Columbia, S.C.
AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain

Former Ambassador to China and likely Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman opened a window into life that might surprise some as he told the graduating class of the University of South Carolina that his life ambition was not to be a politician, but to be a rock star.

"In my late teens you wouldn't have recognized me - My hair was Rod Stewart shaggy," he said. "I wouldn't wear anything but super skinny jeans. I ended up leaving high school a bit short of graduation to play with a band called 'Wizard,'" the now-well-groomed Huntsman told the crowd of thousands at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C.

Although Huntsman's speech was filled with the usual "The world is your oyster" commencement advice for graduates, he did interweave delicately placed political language knowing that dozens of national reporters were in town to listen to his first public speech in the U.S. since giving up his post as America's ambassador to China.

Huntsman's service as ambassador under the direction of President Obama is seen as a possible weakness if he decides to run for president.

"Work to keep America great. Serve her, if asked," Huntsman said. " I was, by a president of a different political party. But in the end, while we might not all be of one party, we are all part of one nation."

Huntsman ended his nearly 20 minute speech by again dipping into his love for rock music, leaving students with a few words of wisdom courtesy of the song "The Luckiest."

"One of my favorite bands is Ben Folds Five. I love this lyric: I don't get many things right the first time. In fact, I am told that a lot. Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls brought me here. And I know that I am the luckiest."