Page 10, 11th June 1993

11th June 1993
Page 10
Page 10, 11th June 1993 — The roller-bladers and smokers of NY

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The roller-bladers and smokers of NY

Charterhouse Chronicle by Peter Hebblethwaite S0 what's new in the US? Joggers still abound in New York, but there is a new breed of intrepid rollerbladers who weave with peat speed through the traffic. The trouble is they have no brakes.

The antithesis to the joggers and the roller-bladers are the huddles of people who gather outside skyscrapers, desperately puffing. They look furtive and guilty. Smokers used to smoke selfimportantly, as through smoking were a manly pursuit as in the ads. Not any more.

Outside Georgetown University, Washington. stands an imposing statue of John Carroll, founder of the oldest Jesuit university in the United States. It celebrated its bicentennial in 1989. But John Carroll was never its president and was not, at the relevant time, a Jesuit, for the Society of Jesus had been suppressed in 1773, just a few years after his ordination.

This old boy of St Omer's, the ancestor of Stonyhurst, was founder but not president of Georgetown because he was elected first bishop in the newly independent United States. He was elected by his fellow • priests, there being no chapter to elect him. He went on to become the first bishop of Baltimore and died in 1815.

Fr Carroll was heavily involved in the American Revolution. his eider brother Daniel signed the Constitution. In 1776 he himself went with Benjamin Franklin in an unsuccessful attempt to draw Quebec into the Revolution. In a curious way the separation of Church and State permitted this involvement.

The Georgetown project was the object dearest my heart". Its aim was "to diffuse knowledge, to promote virtue and to serve religion".

IT is a far cry from Fr John Carroll. The election of an old boy or alumnus of Georgetown, Bill Clinton, as President of the United States, has had a dramatic effect on applications.

For the class of 1997 (Americans are defined by the year they end their studies) there were 2,662 admissions out of a bigger than ever total of 11,105. This is an acceptance rate of 24 per cent compared with 29 per cent the previous year. The biggest increase was in the School of Foreign Service.

All of which should lead in principle to those "higher standards" which are notoriously difficult to define. Or perhaps they all want to work in government. Georgetown's position in Washington, on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River, gives it substantial links to any administration.

In autumn 1991, Senator Clinton began his presidential campaign with three speeches at Georgetown. Governor Jerry Brown, another presidential hopeful, also addressed Georgetown students.

One of them, Don Marchese, who attends Georgetown athletic events dressed as a big grey dog, asked Brown after a speech on the environment whether he used an aerosol deodorant. The governor hummed and hawed (in the US, hemmed and hawed) and wouldn't answer, so the dog-impersonator concluded he did.

Catching people out in such inconsistencies and in incorrect political language has become such a stock-in trade of student politics that it has become wearisome.

The president of Georgetown, the fair-haired Fr Leo O'Donovan Si, was just back from the Gulf, meeting a benefactor who has endowed an Institute of Christian/Muslim relations. This makes sense,' since in 1947 Georgetown was the first American University to start teaching Arabic. There is a vague hope that Pope John Paul H might open it when he visits Dayton in August.

On his way back Fr O'Donovan stopped in London and met Jeffrey Archer. Why should he do that? Because Jeffrey Archer's son in at Georgetown and has been helped greatly by one of the Jesuits there.

The great story-teller has the following tale about the Clintons. On their way to Washington they meet a petrol pump attendant, Sam, who used to date Hillary. As they drive away Bill Clinton says: "You know, if you had married him instead of me, you wouldn't be driving along the road to Washington as the first lady of the next President of the US."

"Ah, but I would," says she.

HE Chicago public library is

Ta vast, cavernous place surely designed originally for some other purpose. That's what I thought, only to discover that it is a new purposebuilt building intended to merge with the offices of the Loop.

Progress up its floors is frustratingly slow because it is by escalators which do half a floor at a time. They proceed upwards through miniature waterfalls which create the atmosphere of a swimming bath. I never reached the seventh floor where are the Chicago authors like Fr Andrew Greeley.

Some Chicago authors of tomorrow were beavering away in the library among dusty files of old newspapers. An old old man smiled at me as he emerged, carrying bundles of files. No doubt his research on some long-forgotten border dispute between Poland and Czechoslovakia.

The library is named after Henry Washington, the first black mayor of Chicago, whose time of office was an interlude in the long reign of the Daley family. Washington died of a heart-attack in 1987, having been re-elected for a second term.

Specimens of his rhetoric adorn the entrance to the library. On 4 May 1985, he observed: "We must apply the lessons of the past to the challenges of today." That must surely take the biscuit for banality.

But. another passage is the very epitome of political rhetoric, which rouses the troops without indicating the enemy. 8 March 1985 it was a bumper year Mayor Washington said: "We're climbing a great mountain and we've taken the first firm steps. We may not reach the summit in our lifetime, but men and women of good will will look back on this gathering and say: 1 wish I had been part of them. They had the courage to fight, the will to win. They sought greatness and they did good." There are echoes of Martin Luther King there, but also of Henry Von the eve of Agincourt.

The Paulists have a house in the Loop, down by the financial area of the city, on Van Buren Street. Most of their activity is at lunchtime or after work. But at seven in the evening they have been screening the video of Richard Eyre's The Long Search. About 20 or so people drifted in from the street. Two, among the most loquacious, declared themselves to be adepts of the New Age.

By chance, Eyre's treatment of Catholicism was on the programme during my stay. I remembered it very well. It had a remarkable concentration on the inner life of Catholicism, being mostly concerned with the Little Brothers of the Poor (or Charles de Foucauld) working in Leeds.

Also from Leeds was the heroine of the show, Judith Dryhurst. I wonder where she is now?

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