Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Former NATO Envoy Says U.S. Has Crisis in Civility

Former NATO Ambassador David M. Abshire (GRD ’59) spoke briefly Wednesday in Gaston Hall, advocating more respectfulness in America after accepting an honorary doctorate of human letters from the university.

“I’m speaking to civility, the crisis of character in America,” Abshire said in his address. “In many ways, this crisis has proliferated.”

Abshire asked the crowd of administrators, personal guests and a handful of students to improve their character.

“The time has come for a new reform movement restoring the character of civility,” he said.

He cited scandals ranging from fraudulent accounting at the energy corporation Enron, steroid use in baseball and congressional corruption involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff as evidence that the country has a character problem.

“In sports, we are no longer surprised to hear that an all-star player uses steroids or is a felon,” Abshire said. “Failures mar athletes.”

Abshire said that two main characteristics distinguish people with strong characters -“the ability to get out of a hole” and “a sense of limits.” He cited former President Ronald Reagan’s handling of the Iran-Contra affair as a good example of these virtues.

“The president went on national TV and admitted the affair,” Abshire said. “[He showed] a wise and noble grasp of the knowledge of power that depends on outreach.”

Abshire, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, is co-founder of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a D.C.-based organization that recommends policies for increasing global security. He is also president and chief executive officer of the Center for the Study of the Presidency, a group that studies the American presidency. He is also currently guiding the establishment of a national consortium of schools to promote character-based leadership.

“We teach our children to win, but the rub is how to win,” Abshire said.

Abshire said that character education should be taught at the high school and primary school level, with an emphasis on practical implications rather than ethical theory.

“Remember, both Jesus and Socrates told stories,” Abshire said. “Preaching ethics doesn’t work.”

The ceremony began with a processional of professors, deans and administrators, followed by a welcome by Edmond Villani, chair of the university’s Board of Directors.

“[Abshire] is a truly exceptional alumnus, scholar and leader,” Villani said. “[He is] a father of five, a grandfather of 10 and a mentor of thousands.”

University President John J. DeGioia also spoke, commending Abshire for his “exceptional background of achievements.”

“He was commended by president after president,” DeGioia said. “[He is] a mentor of the greatest character, a true son of Georgetown.”

Upon accepting the degree, Abshire said he was “overwhelmed with gratitude.”

“I am deeply moved and profoundly honored,” Abshire said.

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