Just a week after Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin (SFS ‘66, LAW ‘69) came to the District for the first time in early September 1962 to study at Georgetown.
This Tuesday, Durbin’s return to campus was greeted with a rally of his own as 60 students gathered on Healy steps in support of the senator and the DREAM Act that he is championing in the Senate.
“I can assure you that as a student I never imagined standing on this stage addressing you all,” Sen. Durbin (D-Ill.) said as he opened his talk.
Reflecting on his experiences on the Hilltop at the talk sponsored by Georgetown University College Democrats and co-sponsored by MEChA and the Georgetown University Legislative Association, Durbin described his memories of the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, saying that day made him realize the significance of going to college in the nation’s capital.
“That’s what’s so special about Georgetown, seeing the march of history right in front of your eyes,” he said.
Durbin said that his experiences in college, including internships on the Hill, drove him to become interested in politics.
“It had a profound impact. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t go to Georgetown,” he said.
More than 40 years later, Durbin has become one of the most influential members of the senate, serving as majority whip and taking part in this year’s “Gang of Six” debt ceiling talks.
“It’s special because he’s a double Hoya and a respected member of the Senate leadership,” said Scott Fleming, associate vice president for federal relations.
Durbin is also a leading proponent of the DREAM Act, which seeks to provide conditional permanent residency in the United States for immigrants brought into the country as minors. The senator said that lobbying for the act is the most important thing he has ever done.
“It wouldn’t be unusual, after work, for a student to be standing near my car in the dark, with tears in their eyes, saying, ‘I’m one of those kids, help me,'” he said. “It’s personal to me, and it should be to you.”
Antony Lopez (COL ’14), co-chairman of MeChA, said his support of Durbin and the DREAM Act was a no-brainer.
“Some of our members are ‘DREAMers’ themselves,” he said. “People need to stop thinking this is someone else’s problem, we’re losing potential with every student we lose.”
Justin Pinn (COL ’13), Georgetown University Student Association secretary of diversity affairs, said he was inspired by the crowd gathered on Healy steps.
“We have ‘DREAMers’ on our campus, so seeing so many students come together like this is beautiful, regardless of political ideology. We truly all are Georgetown.”
Before Durbin left, the Georgetown University College Democrats presented him with the gift of a t-shirt with President Bill Clinton emblazoned on the front.
“Ah, Bill, he was two years behind me … and seniors never pay any attention to sophomores,” Durbin said. “Right? The traditions continue.”