Obama At Georgetown

The President of the United States came to Georgetown University yesterday to deliver a speech.

The sky did not fall. The Catholic identity of the university does not appear to have changed. Last night’s midnight Mass at Dahlgren Chapel (the Mass actually starts at 11:15 p.m.) went on as usual. The theology department remains open and students will still be sitting in their chairs listening to Father Ray Kemp lecture in his class "Struggle and Transcendence." The Jesuit community at Georgetown continues to live and pray together.


Georgetown’s president, Dr. John DeGioia, welcomed President Obama with fulsome praise and said it was an honor to host him on campus. The students who filled Gaston Hall, with its magnificent murals, shouted and applauded wildly when President Obama entered the room and when he finished the speech.

Outside the gates of the university, a smattering of protesters organized by Randall Terry tried their best to cast aspersions upon the proceedings within, on the soul of Georgetown, on America herself for electing such a President. They did not garner any press coverage either from CNN at the time nor in this morning’s Post, not even the Metro section. If Randall Terry screams and no one hears it, is it still a scream?

In his speech the President tried to give an update on the state of the economy and what his administration has done so far to improve it. Seventy years ago, it would have been a fireside chat but not enough Americans have firesides anymore, and given the vast diversity of media, giving a speech at 11:30 on the morning is as effective a way to communicate to the American people as a nighttime address over the radio. But, like Roosevelt, Obama tried to explain where we were and where he intended to lead us.

I can’t believe his speechwriters have spent enough time with FDR’s speeches. Obama’s lack the moral vigor of his predecessor’s rhetorical efforts. Still, there was one passage where he turned to the Scripture that was effective: "Now, there’s a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men.  The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was soon destroyed when a storm hit.  But the second is known as the wise man, for when ‘the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, it fell not:  for it was founded upon a rock.’" Obama said his administration would rebuild the nation’s economy on rock. He should not be afraid to continue to cast the economic decisions facing the nation in such religious and moral terms.

The President did not make reference to Georgetown being Catholic or Jesuit. Still less did he reference the controversy surrounding his upcoming speech at Notre Dame. One wonders what he makes of that controversy and hopes that he understands how deeply felt are Catholic convictions about protecting the unborn and understands, too, that deeply felt convictions sometimes lead to excessive rhetoric and irrational political postures, that determination can blind as easily as it can enlighten. The President is smart enough to know that such excesses should not allow anyone to dismiss the underlying moral concern, that Randall Terry may not speak for the Catholic Church, but that Catholics remain and will always remain concerned about the unborn.

Yesterday, at Georgetown, no one spoke about these matters. But, they need to be addressed by this administration, elected as it was by Catholic swing voters in Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Colorado who believed the Obama was going to be attentive to Catholic concerns. No one expects Obama to suddenly become pro-life. But he held out the possibility that there was a distinction between being pro-choice and pro-abortion, and we are waiting for him to bring forth policies he promised to reduce the abortion rate. Maybe he can address that issue when he goes to Notre Dame.


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9 years 11 months ago
"The Catholic identity of the university does not appear to have changed." Does anyone still think that Georgetown is Catholic. I thought they lost their Catholic identiy long ago.
9 years 11 months ago
Michael Here's the point that you did not consider. Did Georgetown U. bestow an honorary degree for BHO (let alone a honorary degree of law) ?
9 years 11 months ago
The way to reduce abortion people voted for was to try and save the economy. He talked about that. He also passed tax cuts making the Child Tax Credit refundable at lower levels of income, extended unemployment and gave every working family a $400 tax cut as well (2 income families actually have withholding changed by twice that - at least if they over withhold - so the stimulus increases). Do I think he needs to do more for families? Of course. However, he has done much more than his opponent would have by this time. Note that his opponent did not vote for the stimulus.
9 years 11 months ago
Being Georgetown alumni, my wife and I discussed the subject of Obama's appearance, and we thought that the lack of controversy might be due to the fact that there's no honorary degree, or that it's a lower profile speech than commencement, or that the subject was the economy rather than an area where he could explicitly disagree with Catholic teaching, or that many Catholics have given up on Georgetown. I was very disappointed with his allusion to the sermon on the mount. A foundation on solid rock on 5 pillars. Was that a reference to Islam? Probably not, just a poorly constructed, mixed metaphor. And there was hardly enough about a foundation of sound fiscal practices by individuals, households, businesses, and the government. That would be a true foundation for economic recovery.
9 years 11 months ago
Mr. Winters: America should be congratulated for the lively intellectual content of its blog. Its discussion of religion, ethics, and public policy is a marvelous contribution to the education of citizens. One wonders, however, if at times the tone of your postings is not a bid dismissive, perhaps derisive, of the views of Catholics. This article on Obama at Georgetown is a good example: ''The sky did not fall. The Catholic identity of the university does not appear to have changed...The Jesuit community at Georgetown continues to live and pray together.'' Such tone is offensive to the point of belittling readers. Engaging in a serious dialogue requires respect for the audience, not belittling its intelligence. That's what the good Jesuits taught us with the ratio studiorum.
9 years 11 months ago
The real reason there was no protest at Georgetown is that the 'right' needs time to mount an attack.... that's why they lost the election...duh
9 years 11 months ago
"Georgetown Says It Covered Over Name of Jesus to Comply With White House Request" (from CNSNEWS.com) Again I ask: Did anyone still think Georgetown is still a Catholic University???
9 years 11 months ago
I am preparing to join the Catholic Church. I am finding it hard to understand such a liberal Catholic attitude toward the culture of death the current president has been so eager to thrust upon us in his early days as president. Is this how you feel he ''was going to be attentive to Catholic concerns''? To me, coming from outside the Church, I have been drawn to the teachings of the Church, the beauty of its liturgy and I believe the right to life is at the very heart of Christ's Church. When asked when life began, Obama said the answer was above his pay grade; it shouldn't be. I saw what can happen to a church like the Episcopal Church. It became so liberal, it was a ship with no rudder, no moral compass. There are lots of decent pro-life politicians for Catholics to vote for, who want to make the world a better place. I cannot understand voting for and supporting someone who supports even late term abortion and voted as a state senator to deny medical aid to those late term babies who lived through the hideous, immoral ''procedure,'' which to my way of thinking is no less than murder. To me, voting for someone who supports this would be saying I support it, too, regardless of any nice social programs he might be for. I pray for the Catholic Church, built on the rock, Peter, which has nothing to do with our economy, but our soul.
9 years 11 months ago
As a Georgetown student who has given his collegiate life to Georgetown's Jesuit-Catholic identity, I'm a bit tired of outsiders critiquing the University. Georgetown is a unique school, and by and large, I've found that the vast majority of those who attack the school's Jesuit identity ultimately don't really understand the nature or mission of the school. Critique grounded in ignorance is never appreciated, and (as Randall Terry and his cohort prove) can be pretty silly. Believe me, I am the first to critique Georgetown's failings as a Catholic school, but I am also the first student to come to its defense. Georgetown becomes increasingly secular as the years wear on, but nonetheless, that speaks in large part to the increasing secularism surrounding the school and its adaptation to it rather than the school's autonomous secularization. This past year a few friends and I who have served as leaders in pretty much every Catholic Campus Ministry organization restarted a publication that had died out, The Georgetown Academy as "Georgetown's Independent Journal of Faith and Reason). A few weeks ago, we began a blog, www.georgetownacademy.com. It's a bit amateur, but that'll develop as time goes on; our hope is that it becomes a focal point for discussion regarding Georgetown's Jesuit-Catholic identity. Please feel free to check it out, as we'll be posting articles from our physical publication as well as keeping the outside (and inside) community up-to-date on Georgetown's Catholic matters from as inside a perspective as students can get.
9 years 11 months ago
The bishops' reaction re: NotreDame U invites Obama to deliver commencement speech, and even worse to be awarded an honorary degree "...out of touch...and bordering on irrela- vance"?? I totally disagree w/M.S. Winters words. Catholic univ/colleges should act like Catholic institutions of learn- ing. If I were graduating from a Catholic U. and the pro- abortion Pres. Obama were invited to deliver commencement speech/receive an honorary degree, I would NOT attend!! By the way, what is the honorary degree in, i.e., economics, education, psychology, psychiatry, or "HOW TO FUND ABORTIONS WITH TAXPAYERS MONEY"(TAXPAYERS WHO ARE DENIED THE RIGHT TO EXERCISE THEIR RIGHT TO "CHOICE")? One last thought: Knowing now what Hitler stood for, the kill- ing of Jews and some Catholics/Christians, if Hitler were president of the USA, elected on promises of better economy, stimulus package, etc. etc., would you invite Hitler to be the commencement speaker at a Catholic University???


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