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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tributes to Father Drinan

There have been a number of tributes to Father Drinan published. I thought this one from a former Post columnist was quite good:

Father Drinan, Model Of Moral Tenacity

After my Tuesday afternoon class, I would often go by Bob Drinan's fourth-floor office to get energized. I saw him as a towering moral giant, a man of faith whose practice of Christianity put him in the company of all my Jesuit heroes--Daniel Berrigan, Horace McKenna, Teilhard de Chardin, John Dear, Francis Xavier, the martyred Jesuits of El Salvador and the priests who taught me in college. In his office, ferociously unkempt and as tight as a monk's cell, our conversation ranged from politics to law to the morning's front pages. He was as knowledgeable about the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 as he was about the many allegations of international lawbreaking by the current Bush administration. Bob Drinan had mastered the art of being professionally angry but personally gentle.

I also enjoyed the many remembrances posted on the Georgetown Law website. In particular, I thought these from Professors Lubin, Cashin and Mezey, were touching.

My own favorite recollections of Bob Drinan come from my first years at Georgetown. My whole family came to the Law Center the day of my professorial inauguration, including my two children, ages 12 and 9, who sat through several hours of events that bored them silly. At lunch, Bob sat down next to Rachel, the squirmy nine-year-old, charmed her, and then occupied her for half an hour of deeply competitive tic-tac-toe. Needless to say, he earned her parents' heartfelt gratitude. A year later, when Rachel visited me at work, Bob invited her into his office and had a serious talk with her about politics and religion – then gave her an offprint of a law review article he had written on RFRA. Rachel (who had a keen sense of when adults were taking her seriously) was thrilled by the conversation and deeply proud that Bob had given her his article. For a couple of years afterward, Bob would stop me in the hallway and ask, with mock concern, "Are you still feeding Rachel enough?"
- Professor David Luban

I am distraught this morning, contemplating the loss not just of a great man but my next door neighbor at work. While I knew about the aspects of his life that made him an iconic figure for justice and human rights, I knew "Father Bob" mostly as the person who brightened my day when I came to work. I experienced first hand his pastoral care for ten years as we shared a wall at work. His door was always open, mine always partially closed. He never let me get away with that, always stepping in to see how I was, asking about my family, my father, husband, the book or article I was writing. My first year at GULC, he overheard me whining about being without a sweetheart yet again on Valentines Day, he produced a heartshaped box of chocolates for me, smiling devilishly he said, "Just don't tell the Pope." I will treasure his friendship the rest of my life, and try to emulate his goodness as best I can. More than anything I will remember that a few weeks before he died, he visited my newborn premature twins at the hospital, entreating God to watch over them, impressing the NICU nurses with my sons' good connections. He called me at home several times to be sure the family was doing well. A week before he died I came into the office, frenetic as usual. Little did I know that when Father Bob stepped in with his typical good cheer, gentle smile and query as to how I was, that this would be our last conversation. I am happy for him that he was able to live such a vital and giving life, on his terms, until God was ready to call him to rest. I will miss him terribly.
- Professor Sheryll Cashin

So many of us have stories about Father Drinan and our children. For a man without children of his own, he had an amazing and natural talent for talking with them, taking them seriously, remembering them. After my son Jake was born, along with the flood of cards and presents came a little note on Georgetown stationery from Father Drinan. All it said was, "I hope he is a liberal." For years afterward, every time he saw me in the hall, Father Drinan would boom, "I hope your son is still a liberal!" I always assured him that he still didn't have any choice. I had always intended to honor my son's own choices about political beliefs as he grew up, but now I don't think so. I owe it to Father Drinan. I owe him a lot as it turns out. Hearing his voice down the hall always made me happier. His passion for justice made me more hopeful. His integrity and kindness made me want to be a better person. But mostly I owe him gratitude for being with me and my family in the happiest and hardest times of our lives. Thankfully Father Drinan was as liberal with his blessings as he was with his politics. He blessed and welcomed my Jewish children when they were born, and he blessed and helped us say good-bye to my son Julien when he died. I loved his gentle presence, his feisty politics, his faith, his intellect, his humor and his enormous heart. I miss him terribly. Mostly I feel lucky that I got to share a little time and space on earth with him.
-Professor Naomi Mezey

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