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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

ACE Student Veterans Summit

GU Conference Hotel
Georgetown University
June 6, 2008

Thank you Brother Curry…given the profound contribution and difference you have made in the lives of so many, it is a privilege to have you as a new member of the Georgetown community.

I also want to recognize the Dean of our School of Continuing Studies—Rob Manuel—for his instrumental efforts in convening this meeting.  Rob is deeply committed to supporting our veterans, and we would not be here today without his leadership.

Finally, I want to thank all of you for joining us.  It is truly an honor to welcome to Georgetown…and to this extraordinary summit…so many distinguished individuals—especially those whom we can certainly call heroes:  Our student veterans. 

It seems particularly fitting that we think of heroes, today.  June 6th has long been associated with heroes—with those who fully understand that being a citizen is not only an opportunity…but a responsibility…

…Today marks the birthday of revolutionary war patriot Nathan Hale.  When awaiting execution by the British for his intelligence-gathering activities, Hale, of course, simply remarked, “I regret that I have but one life to give to my country…”

…Today also marks the day in 1862—during the Civil War—when Memphis fell into Union hands…into the hands of those who were fighting for not only a stronger nation—but for a better one…

…And, today, of course, marks the day when thousands of American soldiers, sailors, and marines—men of Sen. Daniel Inouye’s generation…men of the greatest generation—left an indelible mark on the windswept beaches of Normandy…and in the annals of freedom.

A love of country…a wish to serve our nation…and a desire to preserve and protect freedom…these three ideals—illustrated by these historical milestones—represent the common thread that binds all those women and men who answered our country’s call…

… And these same three ideals—this common thread—is certainly evidenced by all those who have served—and continue to serve—in places like Kabul and Kandahar…Basra and Baghdad.  

It is evidenced in individuals like retired Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves. After coming under mortar fire in Falluja in 2004, he lost one leg and most of his mobility in the other.  But in 2006, this decorated veteran began his bachelor’s degree here at Georgetown—and you may see him using his Segway to roll over the Key Bridge from Virginia to our campus.  Still wanting to serve, Ryan is majoring in government, and he hopes to become a lawyer.

This common thread is also evidenced in individuals like Marine Corporal Michael Jernigan, who will be coming to Georgetown as a transfer student this fall.  You may have seen Michael’s story on the HBO film, Alive Day Memories:  Home from Iraq.  Deployed less than six months, he was severely wounded on the outskirts of Mahmudiyah—his injuries included the loss of both eyes.  He is currently the spokesperson for a guide dog school, and has written that, “As for the future, I would like to finish school…”

These two men—like all those who have served and defended our country—truly understand that freedom is not simply an opportunity…but a responsibility.  To them, we owe more than our gratitude…more than our pride…more than our admiration.  We owe them the support they need to fulfill their highest potential…to receive the services they require…and—to paraphrase Corporal Jernigan—to attain a quality education.

That is why this summit—“Serving Those who Serve”—is so important.  As leaders in the Academy—as well as in government, non-profits, and the military—and as student veterans—we must engage in dialogue and discourse on how higher education can best support, assist, and serve our veterans.  We must share our expertise…our thoughts…and our ideas.  And we must all understand that truly supporting veterans requires sustained commitment and engagement. 

We—the academy—must also recognize our special role and responsibility in assisting our veterans.  After all, we have truly unique and extraordinary resources—our scholarship and skills…our knowledge and know-how—to bring to this work. 

 We are certainly trying to do this at Georgetown:

Our School of Continuing Studies is in dialogue with officials at both Walter Reed Army Hospital and ACE to determine how to best serve the needs of veterans—including disabled veterans.  And school officials will soon be participating in a college and jobs fair at Walter Reed for the second time. 

Our Public Policy Institute has a partnership with the Army called the “Joint Chiefs of Staff Internship,” that brings approximately 30 active duty officers to campus each year. They earn their masters degree in public policy, and then go to work at the Pentagon for two years.  One current participant—Lt. Col. Greg Gadson—lost both legs—driving back from a memorial service for two of the men in his brigade—while serving in Iraq in 2007. 

Through our Federal Relations office, we are also very involved in supporting the new GI Bill, introduced by Senator Jim Webb, and co-sponsored by our keynote speaker, Chuck Hagel—both highly decorated Vietnam War Veterans—that would provide comprehensive education benefits for post-9/11 veterans.
 More than 200 years ago—perhaps our nation’s most revered veteran…and ’s very first Commander-in-Chief—addressed Georgetown students here on our campus.  General Washington certainly understood that a democracy often requires service and sacrifice.  This was a philosophy echoed by the founder of Georgetown—Bishop John Carroll—who wanted to establish an institution whose graduates would serve the needs of a new nation… 

…In other words, graduates who understood that being a citizen is not simply an opportunity…but a responsibility.

 All of our student veterans—our heroes—have certainly embraced that responsibility.  We applaud you…and we look forward to working with you…

            ...For the rest of us, it is now our turn.  As citizens—and as leaders—we must embrace our responsibility—our challenge…charge…and call to action—to serve those who have served us so bravely…and so well. Thank you.

 

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