Dearing & WeissIn April 2011, Fr. Ryan Maher, S.J., spoke during GAAP weekend to the future Class of 2015. Rather than stressing Georgetown’s pre-professional connections, prime urban location or beautiful campus, he explained what makes Georgetown fundamentally different. There are many other schools with similar opportunities and ways to prepare their students for success. What differentiates Georgetown is that its lessons are not a means to law school, medical school or Wall Street but a way of directing students toward the service of others.

This was his vision. But how much does that rhetoric actually relate to reality? There certainly is precedent of such service at our university. Anthony Shriver founded Best Buddies International in 1989 while studying as an undergraduate here on the Hilltop. His family had a history of working with people affected by disabilities, and Shriver wanted to involve his college friends with special needs partners to foster friendship and community. He wanted to make a change, so, he began the program at Georgetown. The idea spread throughout the country to other campuses and even high schools. This small project, which started out of a dorm room, has now expanded to more than 500 programs involving 20,000 people around the world.

Similarly, the After School Kids, or ASK, Program, which began operating in 1987, was born through the collaboration and dedication of a Georgetown student, a Jesuit, a local judge and a probation officer, with the intention of serving the most vulnerable youth in Washington D.C. They brought up the issue of juvenile justice to not only Georgetown but also to the District as a whole.

So is Georgetown the beacon of service purported to us by Maher two years ago? Do we still see the same innovation bursting from beneath dorm room doors, like what must have come from Shriver? The answer is yes; the greatness of Georgetown lies in the potential of our student body. Yes, students are limited in many ways — by pressures from parents and future employers, by society and even from misplaced personal ambition or ignorance — but these obstacles do not diminish our potential. When a lion is restrained, is he now less of a lion? If he is domesticated in a circus, has he lost forever the capacity for freedom, power and great action? Our limitations, pressed upon us by others as well as by ourselves, do not mean we lack greatness; they simply mean that we must work harder to show the world — and one another — just how great we truly are.

As Marcus Garvey once said, “The ends you serve that are selfish will take you no further than yourself, but the ends you serve that are for all, in common, will take you into eternity.” While we should take pride in the high number of Georgetown alumni in Congress, we should be just as proud of our alumni in Teach for America. We should celebrate acceptance into the ranks of Wall Street but also those in the Society of Jesus. Yes, we have high numbers of staffers, consultants and lobbyists, but we must also value the decision to enter the Marine Corps, Jesuit Volunteer Corps and Peace Corps.

To be a truly great university will not require another bump in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings or a lower admission rate. Instead, we must make the image put forth by Maher at that GAAP weekend a reality. The Hilltop ought to become a place where every class, club and friendship is pointed toward the same objective: going forth and setting the world on fire. More than 7,000 of the world’s brightest minds all live within this same square mile; if unified in cause, our potential is unmatched. The world lies ahead of us — we need only choose the right path to get there.

Benjamin Weiss and Phillip Dearing are juniors in the College. A University for Others appears every other Friday.

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