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Georgetown Honors Father Robert Drinan

Rep. Barney Frank

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Mr. Speaker, on October 23 one of the most accomplished and distinguished people to serve in this House was the recipient of a wholly deserved high honor from one of the leading law schools in this country--Georgetown Law School. On that day, Georgetown Law School, where Father Drinan has taught since leaving the House twenty-six years ago, established the Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Chair in Human Rights. The establishment of this Chair--a very significant honor in academia--recognizes the pioneering work that Father Drinan did as a Member of this House for ten years, and his continued commitment to that great work. Few people in our history have had as great a dedication to the cause of human rights and have been so consistently effective in advocating for this cause. Unlike many who have tried to make this a partisan issue, Father Drinan was equally fierce in his objection to human rights violators of the left, right and center, and accepted no excuses from those who would deny the basic rights of others.

Mr. Speaker, Father Drinan served here in this body for ten years as one of its intellectual leaders, having been elected in 1970 as one of the most effective opponents at that time of the war in Viet Nam. He also played a very significant role in the impeachment of President Nixon, insisting that appropriate legal standards be applied in that matter. He was also a leader in matters that did not divide the House on either partisan or ideological lines, for example in the field of copyright, where he made contributions during that period that remain important foundations of our law today.

Mr. Speaker, when Father Drinan declined to run for reelection in 1980 at the direction of Pope John Paul II, I was elected to succeed him. While I had been aware previously of the great respect and affection in which he was held by his colleagues, I came to appreciate that even more fully when I took the seat he had so ably filled in 1981.

In the years since leaving this body, Father Drinan has continued to be a leader in the application of religious teachings to important moral issues; in lecturing and teaching about the law; and of course in continuing his great work in the field of human rights. Georgetown Law School deserves recognition, Mr. Speaker, for establishing this Chair in Father Drinan's name. I congratulate Professor T. Alexander Aleinikoff, who will be the first holder of the Chair, and I ask that the discussion of Father Drinan's work included in the program announcing the event be printed here so that people will understand how important his impact has been on the best traditions of our country.

Today, Georgetown Law proudly announces the creation of the Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Chair in Human Rights. Priest, scholar, lawyer, politician, activist, ethicist, and one of the nation's leading advocates for international human rights, Father Drinan has dedicated his life to humanitarian causes and to improving the legal profession. A member of the Law Center's faculty since 1981, Father Drinan teaches courses in international human rights, constitutional law, civil liberties, legislation, legal ethics, and professional responsibility. During his tenure at Georgetown, he has taught over 6,000 students. Father Drinan earned his B.A. degree in 1942 and his M.A. degree in 1947 from Boston College and his LL.B. in 1949 and LL.M. in 1951 from Georgetown University Law Center. He entered the Society of Jesus while at Boston College, and in 1953, he was ordained a Jesuit priest. From 1956 to 1970, he served as Dean and Professor of Law at Boston College Law School. During the ten years between his deanship and joining the Georgetown Law faculty, he served in the United States Congress as a Representative from Massachusetts, where he was a member of various committees and chair of the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice of the House Judiciary Committee. Throughout his career, Father Drinan has stood as a leading voice in the human rights movement. He serves on the boards of numerous organizations devoted to the furtherance of human rights, including the International League for Human Rights, Human Rights First, the Council for a Livable World Education Fund, Americans for Democratic Action, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. He was a founder of the Lawyers' Alliance for Arms Control and the National Interreligious Task Force on Soviet Jewry. Father Drinan has traveled the globe, both as a member of Congress and as a private citizen, on human rights missions to Chile, the Philippines, EI Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Argentina, France, and Vietnam to document human rights abuses and to work for their eradication. He is the author of several notable works on human rights, including The Mobilization of Shame, of which Elie Wiesel said, ``Anyone interested in human rights will read Robert Drinan's informative, passionate and challenging book with deep concern and hope.'' In 2004, Father Drinan joined such American legal luminaries as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Thurgood Marshall, and Sandra Day O'Connor when the American Bar Association awarded him its ABA Medal--the organization's highest honor--which recognizes exceptionally distinguished service to the cause of American jurisprudence. The award citation notes, ``For more than half a century, Father Robert F. Drinan has been an esteemed and beloved leader of the bar and a fearless advocate for the powerless and oppressed around the world. . . . Throughout his career, Father Drinan has heeded the call for human rights and social justice. With unparalleled passion and dedication, he has strived to improve the plight of the disadvantage and oppressed, and to advance the rule of law throughout the world.'' Through the generosity of alumni and friends, Georgetown now recognizes and honors one of its greatest sons, Robert F. Drinan, S.J., L'49, L'51, with the creation of the Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Chair in Human Rights. This meaningful and lasting tribute will enable the Law Center to attract teachers, advocates, and scholars who share Father Drinan's passion and concern for liberty, equality of opportunity, and human dignity and who will inspire the next generation of Georgetown Law students to become leaders, protectors, and defenders of human rights.