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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Dinner in Honor of British Ambassador Sheinwald

Riggs Library
Georgetown University
May 1, 2008

It is my great pleasure to welcome you—so many members of the Georgetown community, the Washington community, and the global community—to Riggs Library this evening.  This is our most beautiful space on campus, and the place where we host our most distinguished guests.

Tonight we certainly continue the tradition of hosting our most notable guests in this room, as we gather to officially welcome Ambassador and Lady Sheinwald to Georgetown. 

I want to thank all of you—including some of Ambassador Sheinwald’s colleagues from the British Embassy—for joining us for this truly special occasion, but I especially want to thank:

  • U.S. Representative Diane Watson, who is Co-Chair of the Congressional UK-US Caucus;
  • U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs—and Georgetown alumna—Paula Dobriansky;
  • FBI Director Robert Mueller and his wife Ann;
  • Former U.S. Ambassador to the UK , Phil Lader, and his wife Linda;
  • And the former Mayor of Washington, DC, Tony Williams, and is wife Diane.

    I also want to acknowledge two Georgetown seniors who will be graduating later this month, and who are with us this evening:
  • Joemma Berberich, an intern at the British Embassy;
  • And Erin Delmore, an intern for BBC World News America Correspondent Katty Kay—who is also here tonight with her husband, BBC Correspondent Tom Carver.

The number of outstanding individuals—from both sides of the pond—in this room tonight speaks to the unique relationship…the unique partnership…the unique friendship that the and the share.  I’ll say more about this friendship—and the important role I believe it can play in our increasingly interconnected world—after dinner.  But to begin our evening, I’d now like to ask Fr. Alvaro Ribeiro, an Associate Professor of English at Georgetown, to offer tonight’s blessing.

 * * * * *

 I hope you all enjoyed your dinner, and I want to say—again—how pleased Georgetown is to be able to extend our hospitality—and friendship—to Ambassador and Lady Sheinwald.

 I also think it’s quite fitting that we hold this dinner tonight.  It was on this very date in 1851 that Queen Victoria opened the extraordinary Great Exhibition.  Conceived by her husband, Prince Albert—and a true milestone in international cooperation—it highlighted, in the words of Charlotte Bronte, “whatever human industry has created.”  A testament to British ideals, it was the world’s very first international exhibition…in essence, the very first world’s fair…and the very first time in history that all the nations, and peoples, of the world were invited to gather, not in competition—but in the spirit of friendship.  It is that very spirit that also brings us here this evening.

When Queen Elizabeth visited last year to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, she called the relationship between our two nations, “a special friendship.”  This could not be truer.  It is a friendship founded on our common heritage…nurtured by our common purpose…and strengthened by our common values.   It is a friendship that has grown through being allies in war and partners in peace.  And it is a friendship that is cherished by both our peoples.      

The special friendship between our great democracies is also something that the world desperately needs at this time—a time that, perhaps surprisingly, is not completely unlike the era of the Great Exhibition… 

… The Exhibition opened at a pivotal moment in world history—a moment when the technological and economic progress of the Industrial Revolution suddenly gained extraordinary momentum with the development of the railroads.  Announcing the Exhibition in his speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in 1849, Prince Albert himself noted that “Nobody…will doubt for a moment that we are living at a period of most wonderful transition…”  Thanks to the forces of globalization, our current global community is also experiencing a period of transition.

In that speech, Prince Albert went on to state that “the distances which separated the different nations and parts of the world are gradually vanishing…”  Similarly, and again because of globalization, our present world is also growing smaller.  Nations are more interdependent, individuals more interconnected, and humanity less divided.         

It is also the case that as our world has grown closer, it has become more polarized and prone to conflict.  At the international level, we’ve certainly seen this to be true in acts of terrorism across the globe; in “ethnic cleansing” in the Balkans, Rwanda and other places; and in conflicts in the Middle East, the Sudan, Sri Lanka; Chechnya, East Timor, and around the world.

In such an atmosphere, the need for building bridges of understanding between people, cultures and religions is undeniably great.  And in such an atmosphere, the world especially needs the U.K and the to use our special friendship—our special working relationship, partnership and alliance—to help advance peace, progress, and the promotion of human freedoms and human dignity.  

Undeniably, engaging in the world to make it a better place—in the sprit of Jesuit founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola—is a common good that must be our common goal.

Someone who certainly understands the importance of this common goal is our guest tonight, His Excellency, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the current British Ambassador to the .

Before assuming his present post, Ambassador Sheinwald already enjoyed an accomplished career.  After graduating from Balliol College, Oxford, he joined the British Diplomatic Service in 1976. He subsequently worked in a wide range of policy jobs in London, Brussels, Washington and Moscow—including serving as head of the Anglo-Soviet section.  Additionally, Ambassador Sheinwald served as Deputy Head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s “Policy Planning Staff”—responsible for transatlantic relations and other issues…and Head of its News Department.  He also played a role in the Lancaster House Conference, which led to the end of the Rhodesian Civil War.

In 1998, he was named Europe Director in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and two years later was appointed Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the European Union.  In 2003, he began serving as Foreign Policy and Defense Advisor to the Prime Minister…and Head of the Cabinet Office Defense and Overseas Secretariat.  Ambassador Sheinwald presented his credentials to President Bush, and undertook his current appointment, in October of 2007.      

It is a special honor and privilege to have Ambassador and Lady Sheinwald with us tonight, and I invite you to all join me in a toast to his Excellency :

Ambassador Sheinwald, in the spirit of the Great Exhibition, you have been a strong advocate for international cooperation… a champion for global understanding… and a force for peace.  Through your work, you have made a significant contribution and a difference—not just in your own country…but in our interconnected world.  For all that—and for your continued service and leadership—we thank you.

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