In the center of Georgetown stands a cemetery.
The Jesuit cemetery embodies the reality of death. Neither the compiling of facts and knowledge nor the training of the body and mind for careers can be the ultimate ends of this university; such objectives are rendered obsolete before death. A Georgetown education must seek out the immortal because it displays so evidently the futility of mortality. Georgetown must nourish that which is deepest within us — the soul.
When Frs. Andrew White and John Altham Gravenor, S.J., arrived in colonial Maryland in 1634, the obstacles before them ran deep: an untamed wilderness and the suppression of the Jesuit to start. They faced probable exile and imprisonment. But these men took courage in their set of principles and in their faith in something greater than themselves. So they persevered and founded a school, the precursor to today’s Georgetown.
Similarly, when John Carroll arrived at the newly independent colonies, before him lay a world of religiously segregated schools and the uncertainty of a new country. But Carroll had hope in a grand educational experiment that in small ways could change lives for the better. So he bought a small piece of land in the middle of a swamp, and Georgetown was born.
Over the years, this university has faced innumerable obstacles, like debt, under-enrollment, mismanagement and disunity. But men and women, many anonymous now, rose to the occasion to tackle each challenge. They toiled in the shadows for the sake of Georgetown because they loved the university.
The call of the Georgetown student is to a life of character. Georgetown students of all backgrounds across the ages beckon us to step up and walk the high road, the less-trodden path that separates us from ordinary people.
Today, Georgetown faces no lesser dangers. Our identity, our mission, our rights as students are being challenged. We must look to Frs. White and Gravenor, who held firm in their faith of the convictions on which Georgetown stands.
Today, animosity springs forth between neighborhood and university, student and administrator, as alternative visions of Georgetown vie for implementation. Like John Carroll, we students hope that things can be different. We will take the risk and make the first small steps toward reconciliation and community, hoping that our actions will speak louder than their words.
Today, it is easy to see Georgetown as a mere pit stop: We know that our four years here go by quickly. We are constantly pressured to focus on our futures. But when we pause and look around us, we realize that every stone was laid, every challenge was overcome, every battle was won by those who loved Georgetown and truly embodied it. Only through service and sacrifice will such a place endure.
In an age of challenge, animosity and disinterest, we students must have faith in our university. We must not yield our deepest convictions to outside pressures, and we must hold each other accountable if we fail to live up to the guiding principles of Georgetown. With hope for our university, we must make the first move — by partying with more consideration, by drinking with more prudence — toward civility and peace in our Georgetown community. With love of our university, we must seek out the opportunities to support it any way we can.
Such words are neither popular nor easy. But the good life is never the easy one, nor can the most precious things be maintained without safeguarding them. Our forbearers challenge us to be all that it means to be Georgetown students, whether they are buried on campus or throughout the world. To fall into complacency, to act irresponsibly and to live apathetically is to reject everything our university’s founders intended for us.
In the center of Georgetown stands a cemetery. With its tombstones cracked and inscriptions worn, it’s easy to overlook. But real men are buried there. Men who had faith in something beyond themselves. Men who hoped in a grand experiment of meaningful education. Men who loved, in their own unique way, what Georgetown was and could become.
So faith, hope and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Michael Fischer is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. CURA HOYANALIS appears every other Tuesday.