Jewish Rights Advocate Receives Honorary Degree
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 05:01
Georgetown conferred an honorary degree on Ambassador Alfred Moses (LAW ’56) in Gaston Hall Monday, naming him a Doctor of Humane Letters.
Moses worked for 13 years as an advocate for the rights of Jews to freely emigrate from Romania. Georgetown bestowed the honorary degree on Moses for his service as an attorney and for his contributions to human rights efforts around the globe. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attended the event.
“In my four plus decades of collaboration with Al, he has always distinguished himself in balancing conviction, commitment to causes and passion on one hand with reason, core values and common sense on the other hand,” Chairman of Georgetown’s Board of Directors Paul Tagliabue (C ’62), who is a colleague of Moses’ at Covington & Burling, LLP said. “Al has never forgotten his roots in his own community while helping others over many decades to secure a place in their own communities.”
Moses has served in both the Carter and Clinton administrations. He was special adviser and special counsel to President Jimmy Carter, and during the Clinton administration, he served as the U.S. ambassador to Romania from 1994 to 1997 and special presidential emissary for the Cyprus Conflict from 1999 to 2001.
William Trainor, Georgetown’s executive vice president and dean of the Law Center, read Moses’ degree citation. Trainor noted Moses’ devotion to equality in his law and public service efforts.
“As much as his work has been characterized by engagement with our world, it has also been grounded in deep thought, academic training and intellectual integrity,” Trainor said. “His success in the private sector is matched and even surpassed by his accomplishments as a public servant, diplomat and human rights advocate.”
After the citation reading, University President John J. DeGioia officially conferred the honorary degree on Moses. Moses then spoke about his experiences in Romania and his vision for the future.
“It’s true that in the 1970s, I went behind the Iron Curtain,” Moses said. “It was the great divide. … It was a land of eternal darkness.”
Despite this hostile environment, Moses fought on behalf of Jewish citizens of Romania. The Jewish community in Romania was widely persecuted by the government. Moses said his decision to help was instinctive.
“It’s true: All of us have the opportunity at one time or another to free the oppressed,” he said. “That’s not an option — it’s obligatory.”
Moses said he believes that success comes from the desire for equality in the future.
“Certainly, we are all aware that the world is changing, ever thus,” he said. “For my generation, we’re rounding the bend on the river of time, but we all have an obligation to look ahead not behind.”
Despite many current global problems, Moses said he believes that for most people, the world is a better place now than it was when he first started as a political advocate. Moses spoke of great hope for future generations and commended Georgetown as an institution of higher learning.
“So, what of the future? I have enormous confidence in the future of our country and our leaders will come from the likes of Georgetown that not only survives for two hundred years but flourishes as a citadel of liberal learning, which searches for truth in the Jesuit tradition,” he said. “Georgetown remembers the oppressed and the needy and that’s fulfilling the highest obligation that we share as human beings.”
Event attendees, many of whom were Moses’ colleagues, friends, family or members of the Georgetown community, said they were excited to share in the bestowing of Moses’ honorary degree.
“The award is certainly well-deserved,” said Tom Williamson, President of the D.C. Bar and Moses’ colleague at Covington & Burling, LLP. “I think Al has fulfilled the highest ideals of the profession both because he has been extraordinarily effective in representing others as a lawyer but, more importantly, he has really taken those skills into the public and international sphere and used them to really benefit and advance the interests of the thousands of others who otherwise would have suffered or been denied rights.”