The Catholic University of America

Remarks by the
Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M.,

on the occasion of the conferral of
an honorary degree upon
His Excellency, Valdas Adamkus,
President of Lithuania
Oct. 21, 1998

As President of The Catholic University of America, it is my distinct honor and privilege to preside at this convocation in honor of His Excellency, the Honorable Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania. The words of the citation read by Dean (Antanas) Suziedelis only moments ago, draw our attention to the life of a man whose character was formed in the crucible of oppression. When faced with national persecution not once but twice, President Adamkus summoned the remarkable courage that could only derive from the strength of faith in his God and the highest motivation of the human spirit: to live in freedom.

In his life and actions, the call to freedom was not merely a summons to be free FROM but, rather, a realization of the need to be free FOR. He sought the truth in human existence.

In his recent encyclical letter, Fides et Ratio, our Holy Father Pope John Paul II wrote

"The search for truth, of course, is not always so transparent nor does it always produce such results. The natural limitation of reason and the inconstancy of the heart often obscure and distort a person's search. Truth can also drown in a welter of other concerns. People can even run from the truth as soon as they glimpse it because they are afraid of it's demands." (28)

The Honorable Valdas Adamkus was not and is not afraid of the demands of truth. His heart has been and remains constant and his attention fixed on the truth. For him and for his people, that constancy has resulted, as he has stated, in "the desire for more active participation in community life," in the strengthening of his "people's confidence in the state and in one another."

President Adamkus has explained his vision this way: "I want to use my presidency to help people better understand how democracy works." First and foremost, he sees his role as being that of "a moral authority for the nation."

It is, indeed, fitting then that The Catholic University of America celebrate the life and accomplishments of a man who, while having spent 50 years of his life serving as a moral leader in our nation, has never abandoned the people of his own native land and who has returned to them as their President.

The Holy Father has said that "it is the honor and responsibility of a Catholic University to consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth. This is it's way of serving at one and the same time both the dignity of man and the good of the Church (Ex Corde Ecclesiae, 4)." You have taken our noble mission, your Excellency, and made it your own. For that, The Catholic University of America thanks you and, through the degree conferred upon you, honors you this afternoon as one of our very own.