Brave Thinkers 2012 November 2012

John DeGioia

More

President, Georgetown University

When DeGioia became the first head of an American Jesuit university trained in academia rather than in a seminary, he represented—depending on who you asked—either Georgetown’s twin religious and scholastic traditions or the Catholic Church’s slipping hold on its affiliated schools.

Eleven years into DeGioia’s tenure, the question arose anew when he leapt to the defense of Sandra Fluke, a law student branded a “slut” and a “prostitute” by Rush Limbaugh after she testified before Congress in support of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that health-care plans—including those of religiously affiliated institutions like Georgetown—provide free contraception. DeGioia urged respect for discourse—and bothered some fellow Catholics by seeming to defend a message contradicting the Church’s stance.

The controversy might have ended there, but DeGioia stoked it again with the announcement that Kathleen Sebelius—the secretary of health and human services, and the overseer of the contraception mandate—would speak on campus. Members of the Church and even some faculty criticized the invitation. But DeGioia held fast to his decision, again casting his school as a sentinel for the free exchange of ideas—and reminding us why an institution like Georgetown exists in the first place. “That there was real conflict here,” he told me, “just captures the sense of the complexity that universities are uniquely qualified, uniquely capable, of embracing and engaging.”

See all our 2012 Brave Thinkers.

Sarah Yager is an Atlantic associate editor.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Sarah Yager is an associate editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to a Seaside Town in Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where the Wild Things Go

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Adults Need Playtime Too

When was the last time you played your favorite childhood game?

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In