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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Prayer for the Nation

Gaston Hall
Georgetown University
January 16, 2009

It’s a privilege to welcome you all here this afternoon to help mark a truly historic moment…to reaffirm the principles on which both this nation and this university are founded—and to pray for the welfare and well-being of our country, especially during this time of challenge and uncertainty.

Our Republic and our University have always been inextricably linked:

Our founder, Archbishop John Carroll, was a patriot, a friend of Founding Fathers like Benjamin Franklin—and the cousin of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll…

We are as old as the American experiment itself—both having been established in 1789…

Our first student—William Gaston, for whom this extraordinary Hall is named—went on to become a Congressman…

Presidents from George Washington to Bill Clinton—who is also an alumnus…as well as Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette, have come to the Hilltop to address our students…

And Abraham Lincoln reviewed Union troops quartered here.

But something greater than this links our country and our University. When the statue of John Carroll—right outside this building—was unveiled nearly a century ago, the then President of the Alumni Association noted that “it was the love of liberty—civil and religious—that fired the hearts…of the patriots of the Revolution [like Carroll.]” We, on the Hilltop—as evidenced by all that we do in our scholarship, teaching, and service—remain dedicated to these very same principles…and to the nation founded on them.

That’s why—as we see a new Administration poised to begin it’s work of promise and potential—it’s fitting that we pause, today, in prayer.

But it’s also fitting that we gather to pray together because it’s in keeping with our Catholic and Jesuit heritage…

…Because Archbishop Carroll—scholar, patriot, and man of faith—placed this University in the service of the nation…

…Because, as an academic institution, our ultimate goal is the pursuit of truth—which requires the joining of both reason and faith…and which is so beautifully captured by our University’s motto: “Utraque Unum,” or “both into one”…

…And because, as Alexander de Tocqueville noted in 1835—and it’s still true today—“Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. Religion is more needed in democratic societies than in any others.” Wisdom is not possible without learning—but, alone, learning that is untempered by the spiritual or the moral, cannot bring true wisdom. It’s no wonder that among the large figures depicted in the murals behind me, we see allegories of not only the arts and sciences—but of faith and morality…and of patriotism as well.

There’s also one other reason that it’s fitting that we pause to pray. St. Ignatius Loyola, in his Spiritual Exercises, tells us that living with a profound gratitude to God—for his love, his gifts, his forgiveness—impels us to service. And it is the ideal of service that lies at the crux of our ultimate mission to form “women and men for others.”

Here at Georgetown, that service takes many forms—service to our campus community, our local community, our national community, our global community—and our communities of faith. The acts of service are as diverse as the members of our Georgetown family…just like the styles, and traditions, and voices of our prayers of gratitude and petition here on the Hilltop.

But just as our nation and Georgetown are joined by a unifying principle—the belief in civil and religious liberty—our prayers today are also unified by one, single, principle: Gratitude to the one God who made us all for his many blessings…and a petition for continued blessings on this country, its inhabitants, and—especially at this moment in time—its government.

I’d now like to invite Rosemary Kilkenny, our Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity, to offer John Carroll’s “Prayer for Government,” which was adopted on November 10, 1791—the same year that the Bill of Rights was ratified. Rosemary…

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