Obama Becomes 14th President to Speak at Historic Old North Building
June 25, 2013 – President Barack Obama spoke today from the same university building that the nation’s first president spoke from in 1797.
Old North, which served as Georgetown’s main building from 1795 until the completion of Healy Hall, has received 13 U.S. presidents – including Washington, who spoke after completing his term, and Georgetown alumnus President Bill Clinton (SFS’68), who gave a speech to the diplomatic corps in 1993 just days before his inauguration.
“Through their words, these presidents have helped to shape the culture of dialogue and inquiry that animates our nation and community,” says Georgetown President John J. DeGioia. “We welcome President Obama back to campus to continue this tradition as the 14th president to visit the steps of Old North.”
More than half of the nation’s 43 presidents have visited Georgetown, and Obama joined those speaking from one of the university’s most historic buildings.
Regiment Reviews, Rededication
President Abraham Lincoln visited in May 1861, shortly after the Civil War began, to review the 69th Regiment of the New York State Militia that occupied campus.
More than a century later, President Gerald Ford participated in the ribbon-cutting for the rededication of Old North in 1983.
The First President’s Visit
Several of Washington’s relatives attended Georgetown, including Augustine and Bushrod Washington, who were sons of his nephew, Judge Bushrod Washington.
Grandnephew Augustine entered the college in 1783 and Bushrod the following year. George W. Washington, son of the younger Bushrod Washington, came to Georgetown in 1830.
The university’s College Journal of 1873 quoted a description of the visit in the 1854 Philadelphia Catholic Instructor by former Georgetown President Charles H. Stonestreet, S.J.
“…a horseman well stricken in years, but of noble and soldier-like bearing, reined up his charger at the little gate way and hitched him to the fence. Alight with grace and ease, he enters the humble enclosure with a benevolent serenity of countenance, and the placid look of confidence for a cordial reception.”
Other Presidential Visits
Presidents who visited Old North for commencement exercises or for other public exhibitions since Georgetown’s founding in 1789:
- 1797: George Washington – addressed students and faculty during his visit.
- 1825 and 1827: John Quincy Adams – attended commencement exercises.
- 1829: Andrew Jackson – attended commencement exercises.
- 1841 and 1842: John Tyler – attended commencement exercises.
- 1845 and 1847: James K. Polk – attended commencement exercises.
- 1849: Zachary Taylor – bestowed degrees and awarded medals during commencement exercises.
- 1854: Franklin Pierce – attended commencement exercises.
- 1857 and 1859: James Buchanan – attended commencement exercises.
- 1861: Abraham Lincoln – reviewed members of the 69th Regiment of the New York State Militia while they were housed on campus.
- 1869 and 1876: Ulysses S. Grant – attended commencement exercises.
- 1876: Andrew Johnson – attended commencement exercises.
- 1983: Gerald Ford – rededicated the newly restored Old North building after speaking and receiving an honorary degree in Gaston Hall.
- 1993: Bill Clinton – addressed members of the university community and the diplomatic corps during pre-inaugural activities.