Convocations at Georgetown University are occasions
on which marvelous accolades limn the accomplishments of the honorees.
In my 45 years on the faculty I always enjoyed the convocation ceremonies.
I was privileged to be present when honorary degrees were given
to Presidents Dwight David Eisenhower, Lyndon Baines Johnson and
John F. Kennedy, among others.
I saved some of these remarks for inspiration as the
years go on.
For President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, posthumous:
In the gleam of a smile's last courage he left us,
flash of the spirit's fires; on the wave of a hand
he was taken away, largesse of the great heart's love.
He has not left us, but "he has outsoared the
shadow of our night. . . and now can never mourn a heart grown cold,
a head grown gray in vain." Naught but his mortal part is taken
away for he is ever hence "a portion of the loveliness which
once he made more lovely." While there are splendid souls that
dare to dream, and dreaming dare to soar, so long shall his smile
or courage, his hand wave of love, beckon and beacon to a greatness
that shall be because he has been. "Till the Future dares forget
the Past, his fate and fame shall be an echo and a light unto Eternity."
"Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the Face of heaven so fine,
That all the world will be in Love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish Sun."
xxxxx--Shakespeare, The Tragedie
of Romeo and Juliet
For President Lyndon Baines Johnson
Bright noon was blotted in instant eclipse, and the
ship of state heeled, shaken and stunned. But a strong hand was
firm and steady to take the helm. New freighted with a nation's
grief, ballasted with a people's pride and honor in duty, the mighty
craft responded to the high call to resume her charted course.
His now the post to pilot, scanting a new lodestar;
to rudder through perilous foam past cliff and shoal.
With following, belling winds of purpose, by the compass-point
of truth, of justice, of compassion, his to lead, guide, steel the
mariners to "take with frolic welcome the thunder
and the sunshine, and oppose free hears, free foreheads:
to thrust and buffet, eyes clear to the distant,
For President Dwight David Eisenhower:
It is a happy characteristic of historically great
- more properly, perhaps, an earnest of a guiding Providence
in the affairs of men - that the times that try men's souls discover
or engender their most illustrious leaders.
Often, it is true, in the stress of circumstance "some have
greatness thrust upon them"; it is equally true that once elevated
to leadership and responsibility, their own personal character is
tried, as the gold by fire, and their own integrity and worth dictates
the success or failure of their destiny.
Our own nation faces today crises as crucial as any
in our history, and, happily, boasts of many men of deep probity
and high integrity in its leading posts of responsibility
and governance. Paramount among these is our august
Chief Executive, whose gracious acceptance of Georgetown University's
proffered tribute is a source of consummate honor and pride.
For Arthur Sherwood Fleming, Secretary of the Department
of Health, Education and Welfare:
A celebrated and high-minded theory of statecraft
that it is a function of government to do for its citizens
what they cannot do, or cannot do so well, for themselves. Basically,
this view accords well both with the divinely ordained nature and
purpose of all society, and with historic experience and wisdom,
which assigned the welfare of the people
as the ultimate norm and highest goal of good government.
None the less it is true that, in a society of free
and self-governing men, the boundaries must ever be carefully observed
between callous indifference to popular needs
and the overweening protectiveness of the welfare state.
For Clemens Vincent Rault, DDS, Dean of the Georgetown
The greatest degree of a man's self-fulfillment, and
the highest norm of his value to society, is attained in the richest
development of his God-given talents and abilities,
and their dedication to the service of his fellow men.
Each individual has his own particular capabilities
and opportunities, and he is happiest and most successful
who most surely finds his niche in life, and fills his days
with the joy of accomplishment.
For Alfred Blacock, M.D, developer of "blue-baby"
It is the common and inevitable fate of all men to
come one day to the end of life. Yet there is implanted in the race
and in each individual, an instinctive and compelling urge
to life and self-preservation, to remove even father the dread necessity
of absolving this final debt to mortal nature.
Victory in the struggle, to be sure, can never be attained,
yet are they to be honored as heroes and benefactors of our race
who by their dedicated skill and consecrated talents have sought,
and to some degree overcome, the accidents and the processes which
conspire to man's dissolution.
For Frederick Roman Sanderson, MD, Surgeon:
For the attainment of his destiny in time and in eternity
man has been fashioned, in the wisdom of his Creator, of spirit
and matter fused into one composite human being. How far
the spirit transcends the material element in our nature need not
be stressed here; our concern for the moment is with the dignity
and importance of the material body, as companion and helpmate
of the soul. Of this we have example in the Incarnate Word
of God, who deigned to be clothed in mortal flesh, and to visit
with His divine pity and His divine powers the ills
that flesh is heir to.
For George Venable Allen, Director, United States
In our world of today, so shrunken by conquests of
and space, yet so divided by age-old disagreements and modern rivalries,
a most fruitful field of service is the fostering
of mutual understanding among nations. The unhappy history of two
generations is evidence of the perils of wilful misunderstanding
and miscalculation, and every knowledgeable person dreads
the possible future devastating consequences of the same.
In the struggle to preserve the peace of the world from abysmal
war, in the face of disruptive and subversive propaganda,
the strongest weapon in the arsenal of freedom remains truth, conscientiously
sought and unmistakably declared.