RIGHTEOUS OR RELATIVE: HOW THE 1960’S SOCIAL MOVEMENTS INSPIRED GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY’S JESUIT CALL TO SERVICE
“The ideals and principles that have characterized Jesuit education for over 450 years are central to Georgetown’s mission and character…Students are challenged to engage in the world and become men and women in the service of others, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community.” This definition of Georgetown’s identity on the university’s website depicts Georgetown students’ call to service as a result of the Jesuit tradition of the university. Through exploring the question, “How did Georgetown’s involvement in the education of low-income children in Washington, DC change between 1819, with the construction of free schools run by the Visitation monastery and the Holy Trinity Parish, and 1964, with the establishment of the Georgetown University Community Action Program?” this thesis examines how the Jesuit tradition contributed to the University’s involvement in service work in the local Washington community. In this thesis I argue that the piece of Georgetown’s modern identity which encourages student engagement in the service of others finds its roots not primarily in the Jesuit tradition of the university but rather in student involvement in the social movements of the 1960s. Through studying archival correspondence, manuscripts, and proposals, reading written histories of Georgetown, Visitation and Holy Trinity, and analyzing local and school newspapers, it became clear that students were not largely involved in service work in the community until the 1960s. Prior to this, service in the community was viewed by students as a primarily religious task for a small subset of students, which created widespread apathy towards getting involved. This apathy was furthered by the predominantly-white student body which was largely disconnected from realities of racial injustice and economic inequity in Washington. In the 1960s secular student programs launched in response to the national civil rights and war on poverty movements. The language around these programs shifted to viewing service as a responsibility as a member of the Georgetown community. The programs that were born in the 1960s focused a significant amount on the education of poor youth in DC, which are programs that align with the Jesuit tradition, allowing them to be viewed as motivated by this tradition, even if they were not.
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