Georgetown Law Closed: Wednesday, March 21

The Law Center is closed today, Wednesday, March 21, 2018, due to inclement weather. All activities and services, including scheduled events (student organization meetings and events, CLE, and conferences), are canceled. On-site classes will not be held in person and will be held according to the faculty member’s instructional continuity plan. All administrative offices are closed. The food services operation, fitness center and Early Learning Center are closed. The library is closed. It is expected that only designated emergency employees will come to the Law Center to fulfill their responsibilities. All others -- including students, staff, faculty, and visitors -- are expected not come to the Law Center, which will not be staffed to support anything other than essential life safety and snow/ice clearing functions.

Sen. Richard Durbin (F’66, L’69) Honored with Georgetown University’s Timothy S. Healy S.J., Award

March 2, 2018 —

 When now-Senator Richard Durbin (F’66, L’69)(D-Ill.) was a student at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in the 1960s, he asked someone on campus what he should do after graduation. The answer? “You can do almost anything — but don’t go to law school.” Fortunately, Durbin disregarded that advice, and applied to Georgetown Law. 

“It turned out to be an amazing combination — the education of the School of Foreign Service, and [Georgetown Law], prepared me for what I do today,” Durbin said, as he accepted Georgetown University’s prestigious Timothy S. Healy Award. The award has been given to just five other alumni who have rendered extraordinary and exemplary service in the support of humanitarian causes: Sadako Ogata (M.A.’53, H’13), President Bill Clinton (F’68, H’80), Ambassador Mark R. Dybul (C’85, M’92, H’08), Dr. Dikembe Mutombo (I’91, H’10) and Senator George J. Mitchell, Jr. (L’61, H’89). 

With 14 years experience in the House of Representatives and 21 years of experience in the Senate, Durbin today champions the “Dreamers.” These include Tereza Lee, a piano prodigy who sought entry to prestigious music schools. Lee, whose Korean family came to Chicago from Brazil when she was 2, was undocumented and knew no other home than the United States.

“The law [was] very clear but very cruel,” said Durbin, noting that Lee would have had to leave the U.S. for 10 years and then apply to return. “I thought to myself, that’s unfair…she’s done everything right… We introduced the Dream Act (a path to legalization and citizenship).”

Dreamers also include Cristina Velasquez (F’17), a School of Foreign Service graduate whose future remains uncertain in light of the Trump Administration’s September decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. 

“As Hoyas, we embrace the idea of being men and women for others, a choice we make out of our desire to leave the world a better place…” Velasquez said at the event. “This often means…taking a stand when others are silent, and having the courage to pave the path for those that follow. I stand here today to honor Senator Durbin, and frankly, I don’t know if I would be here had it not been for his courage to fight relentlessly for Dreamers[.]”

Leap of faith

In a conversation with School of Foreign Service Dean Joel Hellman, Durbin recalled the day when he came across a brochure for Georgetown’s SFS. “It was a leap of faith to come to this great university,” he said. 

He was at Georgetown less than three months on Friday, November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas. “Washington came to a dead stop. The bells started pealing regularly, and we followed on our black-and-white TVs all that was transpiring. Many students like myself gravitated towards the White House and then the Capitol as President Kennedy’s body was brought back to Washington… It just absolutely devastated the city… It reminded me of the gravity of our location….how at any given moment an event can change the course of…history.”

While a student at Georgetown Law, Durbin married and started a family. In his third year, he began an internship with Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois, a role that would launch his political career. Thirty years after the internship, Durbin was sworn into that same Senate seat.

In 2001, he would introduce the DREAM Act, inspired by Tereza Lee and by his own mother, a Lithuanian immigrant who settled in Illinois. Durbin’s mother carefully kept her naturalization certificate from 1925 — along with a receipt for the $2.50 filing fee. Today, Durbin keeps both, framed, in his office. 

Durbin also spoke of his commitment to medical research and criminal justice reform. He fielded questions on congressional service, campaigning and gun violence: Durbin voted for the assault weapons ban in 1992 and continues to vote for gun control measures. 

Today, his grandchildren now live in a country where they are told what to do if someone comes into the school with a gun. “What has this country come to?” Durbin asked. “Is there any sane person who thinks this was part of the design of the Second Amendment? We have just let this get totally out of hand. Thank goodness for these students [who are speaking out]…they are pushing this debate to a different place.”

Making a difference

Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia remarked at the outset that Durbin “[exemplifies] a life of service and commitment to the common good.”

“Throughout his career, Senator Durbin has modeled civility and bipartisanship, and he has sought to ensure that we live out and live up to the values of our nation,” DeGioia said.

Jeff Chapski (B’91), president of the Georgetown University Alumni Association, introduced Durbin as “one of our most esteemed alumni.”

Georgetown students and graduates, Durbin said, are fortunate. “This is a great university and gives you a great life opportunity. It really opened the door in my life.”

Advice for students? “Don’t be discouraged. We need you more than ever. Your energy, your idealism, the values that you are picking up here at Georgetown can make a difference in this nation and this world.”

Georgetown Law Vice Dean Jane Aiken (LL.M.'85), concluding the ceremony, said that Durbin represents “who we are as an institution — women and men [for others]… making a remarkable difference in the world. He reminds us all that we have that possibility.”

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