Georgetown is a community of scholar-teachers and student-citizens in the capital of the United States. While we engage each other in pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, and justice, people once seen as distant neighbors are increasingly part of our classrooms, our communities, and our world. Our research, teaching, learning, and service touch lives across the nation, the hemisphere, and world. Our location and our Jesuit tradition make the Americas a key domain to engage the challenges of globalization in a world of many nations, diverse communities, and changing cultures.
The Americas emerged as a hemispheric crucible of peoples from the Atlantic’s varied shores in the sixteenth century. Europeans moved to colonize lands and peoples they imagined as a new world, aiming to rule, prosper, and spread Christianity. They forced growing numbers of Africans to migrate, labor, and struggle to survive. Indigenous Americans faced the arrival of unimagined newcomers, including devastating diseases, and struggled to adapt and endure in ways as diverse as their cultural traditions. By the eighteenth century, people across the Americas lived linked to global trades and asserted diverse Christian identities. Globalization and the Americas were born together.
Centuries later, independence led to American nations. From 1775 to 1825 elites, most of European ancestry, claimed national powers and made political commitments to ideals of democracy, equality, and freedom in ways still uncommon in Europe. Yet, outside of Haiti, slavery endured and in places expanded until its slow and contested demise. Indigenous peoples faced continuing exclusions and exploitations. The American nations were born of persistent inequities marked by cultural diversity. They developed in a world of globalizing trade, national regimes, continuing migrations, and Atlantic cultural exchanges that mixed to generate a hemisphere of complex nations, communities, and cultures.
As the twenty-first century begins, globalization accelerates and deepens historic processes that link peoples across oceans and continents in economic, social, and cultural relationships. Still, states and politics remain intensely national. They promise the benefits citizenship primarily to citizens. Political actors promote and debate national goals, programs, and identities. National interests shape diplomatic relations and military conflicts. Meanwhile, ideals of global prosperity face the challenges of enduring poverty, worries about environmental sustainability, uncertainties of global health concerns, and persistent inequities between men and women. Diverse peoples living at uncertain intersections of globalization, nations, communities, and families sustain and adapt regional, ethnic, racial, gender, and religious identities. Some join streams of migration within nations and across borders. Others seek the gains of citizenship and justice in home communities, urban and rural. Literary texts and film epics assert personal, local, and national visions—and cross borders in translation. People carry everyday cultures beyond borders to work, study, and play, bring change to new neighbors and back to home communities. People across the hemisphere and beyond are linked by a global economy and shared electronic media—and respond in many languages, with varied inflections, and changing reactions.
Our conversations across Georgetown’s diverse programs and communities, with others in the Washington region, and across the hemisphere will bring us to better understand who we are and what we are becoming in a world facing unprecedented changes.