(WAFB) - Former Governor Kathleen Blanco's speech Friday in Lafayette was not one she planned on giving, at least not any time soon.
Days after announcing a very aggressive cancer diagnosis, the former governor spoke at University of Louisiana Lafayette's commencement, telling the crowd it could be her final speech. "I've been thinking hard about what I want to say to you today, knowing that you could be my last audience, but I'm hoping not," Blanco told the hundreds of graduates gathered in the Cajundome.
On Sunday, Louisiana's first female governor announced cancer had invaded her liver. The cancer, she says, has no known cure. Originally asked to speak earlier in the fall, she says her October diagnosis caused her to completely overhaul the ideas she had for her speech. "I've been on many roller coaster rides in my lifetime, but I feel this is probably the most challenging one yet," she said.
Blanco spent decades in the public eye, eventually becoming governor in 2004. Her time in office would be defined by not one, but two natural disasters: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. While recovery efforts quickly fell under scrutiny, she says she fought as hard as she could to get Louisiana the help it needed.
When asked what she hoped her "legacy" would be, Blanco pointed toward her work ethic in the face of challenges. "I just know that I worked very hard at whatever endeavor came my way," she said. "It doesn't matter if its big. It doesn't matter if it's something small."
Speaking before the graduates, she encouraged them to always keep fighting. "If you have no scars, if you have no wounds, God might say to you, 'Were there no great battles worth fighting for?'" she said.
She also touched on the current political environment, saying "crudeness" has replaced respect. She says she hopes her efforts reaching across the aisle while in the political arena could serve as inspiration. "I want us to reclaim civility, because without it, we simply cannot lift our state and nation to the great heights that are within our grasp," Blanco said.
UL Lafayette is Blanco's alma mater. The school awarded her an honorary doctorate as part of the ceremony. Friday was also Blanco's birthday. After her speech, her grandchildren joined her on stage, giving her hugs and kisses.
So far, Blanco has received treatments in Philadelphia and Memphis. She says after feeling "not so hot" in recent weeks, she has recently "begun to feel a lot better, a lot healthier." She credits the prayers she's received since her cancer announcement.
She has another round of treatment scheduled for next week. She asks people everywhere to lift her up in prayer, joking that she will take prayers from everyone: Democrats, Republicans, and everyone in between.
"I'm praying for a miracle, don't know if it'll happen, but I've put my life in God's hands," she said.
See her full speech below: