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Welcoming John Sweeney as an Honorary Hoya

September 21, 2009

Hoyas, labor activists, community members, friends and family were out in force on September 4 to honor retiring AFL-CIO President John Sweeney with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, in recognition of his lifelong dedication to working people.  With the Georgetown Chimes singing a cappella from the balcony, administrators in full academic regalia and the beauty of Gaston Hall as a backdrop, Georgetown University President John DeGioia offered praise for Mr. Sweeney’s  leadership, fighting “to champion the dignity of workers — and work.”

John Sweeney receives his honorary degree.  Credit: Phil Humnicky

John Sweeney receives an honorary degree. Credit: Phil Humnicky

Remarking as he took the podium that this honor “even nudges out being selected some years back to be the Grand Marshall of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” President Sweeney stressed that his Catholic faith served as a “bedrock” for his life’s work in the labor movement.

He referred to Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” which reinforced the Catholic Church’s longstanding support for workers’ rights in the light of recent upheavals in the global economy.  Sweeney said that the document:

…exposes the evils of unfettered globalism, shattering the notion that markets can be counted on to regulate themselves or that built-in quotas of poverty and underdevelopment are acceptable ways to make markets work.

Of great importance to me as leader of the American labor movement, the Holy Father reaffirms our belief in government as a legitimate tool for correcting injustice and inequality, and for regulating business.  He writes:  “The market is not, and must not become, the place where the strong subdue the weak.”

He went on to praise Georgetown’s own efforts to respond to the needs of workers both at Georgetown and outside the Healy Gates.  Sweeney added:

We applaud the creation of your wonderful new Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, which puts the considerable influence and resources of Georgetown University behind our shared commitment to just workplace relations, especially on behalf of low-wage and immigrant workers.

Following the ceremony, students and professors mingled with labor leaders and invited guests at a reception outside Gaston Hall.   MSNBC’s Chris Matthews (seen below speaking with newly-elected AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka) was even on hand to join in the festivities.

Credit: Phil Humnicky

Credit: Phil Humnicky

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