One of the reasons I came to Georgetown is its emphasis on Jesuit values, specifically the concept of interreligious understanding. That is the notion that we should recognize and celebrate the spiritual and moral values found across faiths.
The importance of Jesuit values, such as religious diversity, is something I highlight when leading tours for prospective students with Blue & Gray Tour Guide Society. This tradition of tolerance is presented all across Georgetown, including at its “Tea with Chaplains” sessions and in cornerstone courses, like “The Problem of God.”
After taking professor John Crowley-Buck’s “Jesuits: Mission and Values” course, I was able to dive deeper into the Jesuit interpretation of interreligious understanding. Education in the Jesuit tradition is a call to human excellence. It develops the whole person — from intellect and imagination to emotions and conscience — and approaches academic subjects holistically, exploring the connections among facts, questions, insights, conclusions, problems and solutions.
It is because of Georgetown’s rich history of Jesuit values and religious pluralism that it hurts so much when unnecessary progressivism is seen as a better option than tradition. The recent proposal to rename the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) to the Madeleine K. Albright School of Foreign Service exemplifies an unwanted digression from long-standing custom.
The renaming of the SFS matters not only for Catholics, but also for those who care deeply about the spirit of Georgetown. Removing Fr. Walsh as the namesake of the SFS will erase his legacy and the Catholic ethos that encouraged the school’s founding.
Fr. Edmund A. Walsh, S.J., was born in Boston, Mass. on Oct. 10, 1885 and was ordained into the priesthood in 1916. He received three academic degrees from Georgetown: a Bachelor of Arts from the College of Arts and Sciences, a Doctor of Letters degree and an honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree. Following the armistice of World War I in 1918, Fr. Walsh was tapped as the first Regent of the SFS.
Although this institution was designed to prepare Americans for all forms of international representation, Fr. Walsh envisioned a global school instilled with the Jesuit value of service. As the leader of the SFS, Fr. Walsh’s Catholic stewardship manifested in his dedication to advocacy.
Much of Fr. Walsh’s work aimed to resist the forces of totalitarianism and religious repression, which is central to the Jesuit purpose. His humanitarian legacy lives on in the mission of the SFS to this day.
My petition highlights who Fr. Walsh was and the things he accomplished for others while expecting nothing in return. For instance, in the 1930s, Fr. Walsh worked as a diplomat, helping to resolve the repression of the Catholic Church of Mexico and to form Jesuit institutions in the Middle East. Later, following the end of World War II, he served as a consultant during the Nuremberg Trials, uncovering evidence of crimes against humanity directed toward religious minorities under the Nazi regime.
As evidenced by the more than 700 signees that the petition has gathered since June 12, many individuals in the Georgetown community resoundingly disapprove of this departure from tradition. The history of the SFS does not exist without Fr. Walsh. If we want to celebrate the 104-year history of the SFS, we cannot forget Fr. Walsh’s name and his legacy.
Georgetown’s Jesuit identity is an essential part of the school’s history and has been integrated into both academic and social life on campus. It is painful to watch this attempt to write over the SFS’ Catholic roots.
Georgetown students must be active in the fight to preserve our school’s history. We must engage with our peers in talking about this momentous change and must work to inform ourselves on this controversy in order to ensure that Dean Joel Hellman hears our strong opposition. Fr. Walsh’s message brought me — and many others — to Georgetown, and we must work to maintain his legacy.
Renato Llontop Calosi is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.