Remarks by President John J. DeGioia
School of Foreign Service in Qatar - Inaugural Commencement
Museum of Islamic Art
May 9, 2009
Thank you Jim for that kind introduction. And thank you to Their Highnesses, The Emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Misned, who’ve honored us with their presence here today…and to the people of Qatar who’ve shown me and my colleagues such warmth and hospitality during our visits—and who’ve truly embodied the teaching of the Qur’an to “Be kind to the neighbor who is a stranger, and to the companion at your side, and to the traveler…” (Qur’an 4.36-37).
I’m also extremely grateful to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, and her husband Paul, who is an alumnus and Chair of the Board of Visitors of our School of Foreign Service, for joining us today for the very first graduation of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. The Pelosis are also the proud parents of three Hoyas, and we’re privileged to have them with us.
I also wish to offer my congratulations to Dean James Reardon-Anderson, and the entire faculty here, for their exceptional efforts in making this day a reality. As you are aware, after four years of outstanding service in Doha, Jim will be returning to the Main Campus this fall as Sun Yat Sen Professor of Chinese History in the School of Foreign Service. Under his direction, this program grew from only 25 students in 2005, to 145 students from 28 nations. He has also overseen the preparations for the Doha campus to move into a new 400,000-square-foot facility, scheduled to open in fall 2010, which will include classrooms, offices, a library, and other facilities for more than 200 students…
But more important than all that, Jim has ensured that the spirit of Georgetown has animated this work here from the very first day of our engagement. On every visit I have made here, I have always: felt at home. I can remember in meetings with our students, if I closed my eyes, I was right back on our campus at Georgetown. Jim, you have infused this community with the very best of our tradition and you have ensured that our community in Washington has experienced the very best of the spirit of Qatar. Your leadership and service have made invaluable contributions and an extraordinary difference. You have made us a stronger and better university. We thank you, and we look forward to welcoming you back to the Hilltop.
Of course, the very existence of our Doha campus owes so much to the sustained engagement of Bob Gallucci, the Dean of our School of Foreign Service, who will soon be leaving us to begin a new role as President of the MacArthur Foundation…
Bob, during your years with us you inspired our students…expanded the depth and breadth of our academic program…enriched our community with your service…and, in the spirit of St. Ignatius Loyola, engaged in the world to make it a better place. Thank you, for the exceptional leadership and scholarship you brought to Georgetown for 13 years, and congratulations on your new position.
I’m also especially gratefully to Her Highness Sheikha Mozah, who provided the extraordinary leadership and support that enabled us to establish our School of Foreign Service as part of Education City here in Doha. We had the privilege of having you give a commencement address on the Hilltop last year…and now we have the honor of sharing with you here, this, our first commencement in Doha. Thank you, and congratulations on this day. Georgetown is extremely proud of our engagement in Qatar…and the work being done here to form capable and compassionate leaders for the global community.
Finally, to all of today’s graduates—my most heartfelt congratulations. You’ve worked very hard to be here this afternoon…and I know you’ll look back in years to come with joy on your past four years:
Whether it was examining truths in the “Problem of God” class with Fr. Ryan Maher…or participating in video conference classes with your peers and professors in DC—including one which resulted in the first snow day, ever, in the history of Doha…or engaging in service projects like the “Hoya English Language Program,” where students teach English to campus workers…or Service Learning Trips to places such as Rwanda, Jordan, and India.
The entire Georgetown community is proud of your achievements. We’re proud of what you brought to us—your talents and abilities – your skills, and dreams, and passions. We’re proud of the many contributions you’ve made during your time with us—your scholarship, and service, and the depth of your engagement. And we’re extremely proud to have you as members of our Georgetown family.
I can also think of no better place to hold this commencement than here, in this breathtaking museum—the largest in the world devoted exclusively to Islamic arts...and which is under the special patronage of the daughter of the Emir, Sheikha Al Mayassa. The motto of the museum is “A Bridge from Past to Future,” and, in so many ways, that’s exactly what the opening of our School of Foreign Service in Qatar—and this first commencement—represents to Georgetown. Let me explain.
We have a building on our campus in Washington – one of our oldest buildings - Maguire Hall – named after one of Georgetown’s earliest presidents, Fr. Bernard Maguire. Graduations were very different in the nineteenth century, and it was 80 years after our founding that Fr. Maguire gave the very first commencement address by the college’s president 140 years ago today. When speaking of the students, he noted that, “We have students here from Maine to Mexico…This is our mission: We teach them…[wherever] they come from, to love one another.” All of you are now connected to this tradition.
From the very beginning—when Archbishop John Carroll opened Georgetown to “students of every religious Profession,”—our guiding principle, as suggested by Father Maguire’s statement, has been to build bridges of understanding between individuals, cultures, faiths, and nations.
This principle is even inscribed on our university shield in Latin; it reads: “Utraque Unum,” or Both into One. Taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, these two words speak the bringing together - to the joining of reason and faith, in the pursuit of truth. They speak to the gathering of both the arts and the sciences. They also speak to the ability and capacity to manage differences…to synthesize competing and sometimes conflicting concepts…and they speak to preparing you to be agents of reconciliation in a world that so desperately needs you. This idea—both into one—of the significance of joining and synthesizing and building bridges—is also beautifully captured in a unique treasure housed in this museum. There’s a Medieval painting here that features the Virgin Mary with an infant Jesus—along with Arabic Calligraphy reading: “There is no God but God,” which as we know, is a key part of the Muslim profession of faith.
Of course, we now live at a time when, thanks to unprecedented advances in communications and transportation technology, nations are increasingly interdependent…people more interconnected…and humanity less divided by narrow domestic walls than ever before in history. In such circumstances, we cannot hope to continue to build bridges of understanding unless—as this museum suggests—we also build a bridge between our past and our future. Doha is just such a bridge. The work being done here allows us to meet three challenges of our present circumstances. Our presence here – our work here – enables us:
• To strengthen our ability to prepare you, our students for this new world of globalization.
• It enables us to help build bridges – bridges of understanding - between individuals, cultures, faiths, and nations.
• And it enables us to become a truly global institution.
Allow me to briefly discuss each of these challenges with you.
As a university, our ultimate mission—in keeping with our Catholic and Jesuit heritage—is to ensure that you are fully prepared to become capable citizens and compassionate citizens and leaders. But given that issues, initiatives, and problems no longer stop at regional boundaries or national borders, we cannot fulfill our mission if we work in isolation. We must take inspiration from another work here in this museum – it is an album page that shows a representation of St. Jerome—a 4th century Catholic scholar and theologian who translated the Bible into Latin, and who spent much of his life as a hermit in the Middle East…including 34 years in a monastery near Bethlehem. The 16th century work was undertaken for an Indian emperor…the calligraphy was done in Iran…and the figure is based on the works of the European artist, Albrecht Durer—whose prints were brought to India by Jesuit missionaries. The blending of cultures and countries produced a work far more wonderful than if produced in isolation…
…Given our present environment, our first challenge is to ensure that you are ready to engage the opportunities and embrace the responsibilities our modern world presents—in other words, to be global citizens and leaders who can appreciate and understand the needs and wants of the global community. That’s one of the reasons we accepted the invitation to establish a presence as part of Education City here in Doha. And I can think of few places better to undertake this work of preparing global citizens than in Doha. As long ago as the middle ages, many cultures and ideas were introduced into this peninsula—a participant in the great Persian Gulf-Indian Ocean commerce route—from Africa, South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Malay archipelago. Today, the traces of these early interactions still survive in a small minority of races, peoples, and languages.
But, as our global community has grown closer, it has also become more polarized and prone to conflict. At the international level, we’ve certainly seen this to be true in conflicts that have spanned our globe. This brings us to our second challenge: Building bridges between individuals, cultures, faiths, and nations. In Howard’s End, British novelist E.M. Forster wrote: “Only connect...Only connect, the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height.” Our world is in desperate need of women and men who can “connect”, who can overcome their own self-interest, their own limitations, their own provincial perspectives…and develop the skills to bring people together—despite their differences, despite the obstacles, despite the challenges. These are women and men who can overcome hardships and difficulties to build bridges of understanding across borders of difference…and indifference. Forming such women and men is a goal that is truly supported by the work and mission of this School.
Our third and final challenge emerges from the other two. We cannot fully prepare you to be global leaders and citizens…nor can we continue to advance and promote the building of bridges of understanding in our global community unless we become a truly global institution—another goal that is certainly advanced by what we do here in Doha.
Since our founding in 1789—and as alluded to in the remarks of Father Maguire—Georgetown has always been a university of international character. At a time when travel was difficult and distances great, 20 percent of our first students came from a foreign country. Today, we have students from 134 countries represented in our student body…12% of our students come from abroad…52% of our undergraduates will study abroad…and we send our students to more than 120 universities around the world. We are certainly an international institution.
But by necessity, as well as by choice, in the complex and changing world we face—Georgetown must transition into a truly global university…one that can respond effectively and imaginatively to global issues and opportunities. There is, of course, no single road map…no charted course…no established path for doing this. But the transition also raises a question: What does it mean to be a global university? I believe that to be a global university requires a different way of engaging with our world. It requires that we recognize that being global entails an engagement in the world that is multilateral, multinational, and multicultural…an engagement that requires networks and partnerships that transcend national identities, national boundaries. There is no better example of our emergence as a global university than our presence here in Doha.
By helping to adequately prepare you for our new world of globalization…by helping to build new and greater bridges of understanding…and by helping us to become a truly global institution, the Georgetown School of Foreign Service in Qatar, is certainly “a bridge from our past to our future.”
At the end of his commencement address 140 years ago, Father Maguire told the graduates that, “We send you out on your mission with confidence that you will honor your Alma Mater.” I say the same today. You’ve honored us by all that you’ve accomplished—and by all that we anticipate you will yet accomplish. You are now part of our legacy. And just as you brought your energy, idealism, passion, service, and scholarship to our School of Foreign Service, it’s now your time—it’s now your moment—to bring these gifts out into the world.
To all of you, to everyone who has helped to make this school – and this day possible – I wish to say thank you and congratulations. And on behalf of the entire Georgetown community, I again wish to congratulate the class of 2009.