INAUGURATION Speech Highlights GU’s Challenges By Tracy Zupancis Hoya Staff Writer

Charles Nailen/The Hoya Cardinal McCarrick applauds University President John J. DeGioia as DeGioia takes the stage at his inauguration.

In his inaugural address at DAR Constitutional Hall on Saturday, University President John J. DeGioia examined the tensions he thinks define Georgetown, Georgetown’s place, orienting Georgetown toward justice, and discussed how to pursue the work of a university.

“There are a set of tensions,” DeGioia said, “that characterize all great universities: arts and sciences, research and teaching, national and international.”

These tensions within a university, he said, cause culture to not only be created, but critiqued.

“The unique role of the university in our society is to sustain these two responsibilities, in conflict, in tension,” DeGioia said. “If we seem at odds with ourselves at times, it is by intention. And make no mistake, it is critically important that we do.”

Such tensions, he said, are augmented by the university’s religious identity.

“As a Catholic and Jesuit University,” DeGioia said, “we heed the Church’s call to powerfully engage the world, human culture, the environment, all ways of knowing. This creates a second set of questions and dynamic entered the hall. tensions that we seek, that we relish, here in the shared presence of the Academy and the Church. These are captured in the Catholic `and’ – the relationship between `faith and reason,’ `nature and grace,’ `reason and revelation,’ `natural and the supernatural.’ These are not idle abstractions for a university that seeks an integration between university and Church.”

DeGioia focused on three questions, asking how to pursue the work of the university and what that pursuit means today, how to respond to the university’s place, in the words of Jesuit Father Przywara, “on the border line where the Church meets the world and the world meets the Church” and finally, how to orient the university and its work “to the moral imperative of justice.”

As a “House of Intellect,” DeGioia said, Georgetown lives the tensions of supporting, sustaining and critiquing culture while nurturing many cultures and supporting a “community of communities.”

Georgetown’s status as a Catholic and Jesuit university, DeGioia said, causes the community to “live the tensions to be authentically Jesuit, authentically Catholic, to provide an authentic context for the meeting of the Church and the culture, while sustaining the virtues and practices of the Academy.”

“And, as global citizens,” he said, “our fundamental challenge is to break through the blocks to fulfilling our obligations as human beings, to one another.”

DeGioia termed Georgetown’s spirituality an added resource that forms the base of university tradition.

“A fundamental animating dimension of the university,” he said, “is to push against and push through the blocks to understanding; the blocks to knowing; blocks to freedom; blocks to human flourishing. In the classroom or in scholarship our work seeks to break down blocks. The spirituality at the heart of our tradition also seeks to break down blocks.”

DeGioia cited Timothy S. Healy, S.J., the university’s 46th president, for whom DeGioia worked from 1982 to 1989, Father Gerard J. Campbell, S.J., Georgetown’s 44th president and the university’s 47th president, Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., who DeGioia worked with during O’Donovan’s 12 years as president, as people to whom he is indebted, who “provided extraordinary leadership in developing the tradition that sustains us today.”

DeGioia also spoke about the influence the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had on Georgetown.

“I have never been more proud to be a member of the Georgetown University community than in these past four weeks,” DeGioia said. “We all have been participants in a community that is giving consolation and support to one another and to the world beyond our campus gates.”

DeGioia said Georgetown’s reaction to the events of Sept. 11 went beyond religious services, vigils and academic discussions.

“What’s special about Georgetown gives people solace in their grief consolation in their rage,” DeGioia said. “It’s the sense that, at Georgetown, tending to each other’s full needs occurs naturally.”

Georgetown, he noted, holds an important place in the world after Sept. 11.

“International, diverse, Catholic and Jesuit, situated at the crossroads of democracy, Georgetown has invaluable resources to offer a world struggling with crises both urgent and profound,” he said.

DeGioia emphasized the way the university has shaped him during his 26-year career here, and pointed toward where the university will go.

“Georgetown,” he said, “has a great mission, a bold destiny. And it matters that we do this. For 26 years, I have seen the growing strength of this great institution. In recent weeks, I have seen the beating heart of this extraordinary community. This is the work for Georgetown. And by living these questions, we become the university we are meant to be.”

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