Inspiration, Inclusion & Involvement explored at Georgetown Conference
“Sport, placed at the service of humanity can lead to the overcoming of prejudices and the promotion of the Gospel values of peace and fraternal solidarity. In today’s world, torn apart by many divisions, sport remains an area where people are able to meet without barriers of race, sex, religion, ideology or physical condition; where we can experience the pure joy of playing and competing together to reach a goal; where success can be shared and defeat overcome.”
— HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Georgetown Conference Attendees Receive Blessings from Pope Francis
With great honour, the SPORT AT THE SERVICE OF HUMANITY conference hosted by GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY received blessings from HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS in the form of a personal message addressed to all Georgetown Conference attendees which was read by MONSIGNOR WALTER ERBI, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Apostolic Nunciature of Washington, DC.
This message set the tone for the three-day conference, which was declared “Powerful. Sobering. Moving. Uplifting. Inspiring” by those in attendance.
The conference – framed around themes of INSPIRATION, INCLUSION and INVOLVEMENT – featured inspirational speakers, thought-provoking panel discussions, interviews and breakout sessions focused on the power of faith and sport to inspire change, an opportunity to reflect on the importance of values and to act as a bridge to unite and cross divides. Below are some highlights from the 3-day event.
Inspiring Change Through Sport
Georgetown President JOHN DEGIOIA and MARIE ROYCE, Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs, welcomed all conference delegates with an opening dinner at the Capital One Arena that preceded the exciting season opening game between Georgetown’s men’s basketball team vs. Mount St. Mary’s.
“We look to athletes for inspiration. We look to teams for inclusion. We look to sports for a place to be involved, to find community.”
– PRESIDENT JOHN J. DEGIOIA, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
“Shared passion in sport can transcend differences and create opportunity for dialogue.”
– MARIE ROYCE, ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EDUCATION AND CULTURAL AFFAIRS
A Thought Provoking Keynote Address at Georgetown Conference
The next day, SIR JOHN KEY, former PM of New Zealand posed two important questions for all delegates to ponder as he delivered his keynote address.
“We live in a divided world and that’s very evident. But one of the interesting questions is – can sport help bridge that division? And second, can the skills that we learn through sport help us translate into building a more collective and inclusive view of humanity?”
Inspiring Change Through Major Sports
A panel on how major sport organizations can and have used their unique resources and influence to affect positive social change was moderated by Big East Conference’s VAL ACKERMAN.
DAVID GREVEMBERG, CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation, shared how important creating a strong vision and narrative was in navigating challenging times.
“We essentially are using the brand Commonwealth to drive social change. And we transformed our vision as an organization away from simply just hosting great games every four years to through the power of sport, create peaceful, sustainable and prosperous communities across the Commonwealth.”
Reflecting on Sports and Engaging on Questions of Values
A panel moderated by PAUL ELIE of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, deliberated on the fact that in today’s world no one can separate sport from culture and values.
USA Today columnist, CHRISTINE BRENNAN, referenced the current state of sports media coverage and conversation as a complex 12- lane super highway, with multiple lanes for sports, religion, politics, and culture merging together. She noted that the clear lanes that once existed are gone and this, has the potential to unite us or divide us.
Bridging Divides and Promoting Social Change Through Sports
The role of sport as a peace-building and social development platform was explored in a panel discussion chaired by KATHERINE MARSHALL of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.
MOHAMMED ALMENFI shared an extraordinary story of how Rugby 2018 came out of the ashes of Benghazi in Libya.
“What can we do in such conditions? We noticed that kids are playing on the streets and they are prone either to be radicalized or to join the militias that are fighting. This youth adventurism needed to be channeled somewhere, but all the channels that were available at the time were violent channels. And we thought maybe, we could use sport and turn this adventurism, this energy, into something positive.”
The Transformational Power of Sport
The common thread that ran through the 3 days of inspirational stories and thought-provoking exchange of ideas is the transformational power of sport – its ability to elicit emotion that allows people to connect in the most basic way; the values it promotes that connects us with our common humanity; the fundamental lessons it teaches and lessons learned that stay with us for life.
Georgetown alumna and Paralympic athlete AIMEE MULLINS had a conversation with Georgetown Athletics Director LEE REED about the power of sport in helping her overcome personal challenges and how her coach taught her a valuable lesson that helped her “get out of her own way and accept the challenge of being extraordinary”.
NBA legend Georgetown men’s basketball team coach, PATRICK EWING, reflected on how sport helped him evolve into the person he is now.
“Sports, in general, taught me how to be a man. How to learn, how to deal with wins and losses. You’re not going to win at everything you do. You’re not going to be successful at everything you do. But how do you cope with that? I think that sport has helped me to learn all of these things. I don’t see myself as just Patrick Ewing the basketball player, even though it’s still a huge part of my life. I just see myself as Patrick Ewing the person, and I’m still growing, I’m still learning and I’m still developing.”
Georgetown Conference Results in a Call to Action and Commitment
The Sport at the Service of Humanity Georgetown Conference culminated with a reception and special tour of the Sport Gallery at the National Museum of African American History and Culture hosted by curator DAMION THOMAS.
Following the gallery tour, VALENTINO DIXON, an artist exonerated from wrongful conviction with the help of Georgetown’s Prisons and Justice Initiative, shared his inspirational journey on how drawing golf courses while in prison kept him from losing hope and helped him cope with his situation.
“When I started drawing golf courses, it took me back to that place and time when I had a sense of peace. It was very spiritual.”
His Eminence CARDINAL GÉRALD CYPRIEN LACROIX, Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, delivered the closing remarks to end the 3-day exploration on the power of faith and sport for Inspiration, Inclusion and Involvement. He shared his perspective on how sport, like faith, has the inspiring power to teach us how to live together and to respect differences, how sport can bridge new relationships and heal the alienating feeling of being different, an outsider, a stranger. In closing, Cardinal Lacroix extended a call-to-action and challenge to all participants.
“May this time of sharing and learning from each other’s experiences help us continue building a better world. We know from experience that sport is a fast track to attain this goal. The Church is at the forefront to bring out the best and the brightest forward, to be in the midst of the world to make a difference in all fields of life. That is why the word service in the name of this foundation is so relevant. It exists as a powerful service to humanity. Now let’s go out there on the field and win this game, giving it our very best support and participation. Let no one remain on the bench! This endeavor requires us all to step up to the plate and score!”