Washington lawyer and Baltimore Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams, calling "building the peace the most important job in the world today," urged Georgetown University graduates yesterday to "make a bold, dramatic, new try at man's ancient hope of world peace through law."
Williams, speaking at the 184th annual commencement exercises at the university, said "brute force is still the mechanism for settling disputes between nations" and called on the United States to join other nations in submitting all its major disputes to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
"Forty-eight nations submit unqualifiedly to the jurisdiction" of that court, Williams said, "But we have refused to submit unqualifiedly to the jurisdiction of the court."
Rain forced the graduation ceremonies for some 1,200 students to be held in various indoor locations. Williams' address was delivered to some 2,000 people, including 608 arts and sciences graduates, who were crammed under a large white and yellow tent near one of the school's large parking lots.
Other schools also graduating classes yesterday--the schools of nursing, foreign service, languages and linguistics and business administration--held ceremonies in other buildings on the campus.
University officials said that the speech was canceled at one point because some officials felt all graduating students should hear it. But that decision was rescinded apparently earlier in the day, according to one official.
Williams, one of the country's leading trial lawyers, also was presented with the school's John Carroll medal of merit. The award is given to a Georgetown graduate whose career and beliefs reflect the ideals of the university's founder, John Carroll. Williams was graduated from Georgetown's law school in 1944.
Although the main portion of the speech was a discussion of the need to combat threat of nuclear war, Williams had the audience roaring with laughter when he recounted an admonition he received from the dean of men when the dean discovered Williams late one evening sitting in the lap of a statue of the school's founder.
"His message was laconic, indeed monosyllabic," Williams recounted. "'Pack,'" Williams quoted the dean as saying. "Thank the Lord cooler heads prevailed in the morning," Williams added.
Williams said that he could recall only once commencement address he had ever heard that was "memorable." It was when a speaker at Georgetown years ago, asked to give some advice to the students about to go out into the world, simply said: "'All I can say is, Don't go.'"
Williams, whose law firm, Williams & Connolly, represents Georgetown, turned quickly to his message. "I shall make so bold," he said, "as to propose a crusade for your generation."
Noting the progress made in the last centuries in science, Williams said "we must have this kind of progress in the legal, moral and social order," and he urged the audience to work to develop a "program that has as its essence the belief that broad basic rules of reason and decency can be incorporated into a world system of justice and applied by an international tribunal."
Williams said he recognized that his ideas might be considered "idealistic folly," but said there was no alternative except nuclear annihilation.
In addition to the award presented to Williams, University president Timothy S. Healy presented an honorary doctorate to Virginia M. Koss, a history teacher at Stone Ridge Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda. The award, based on nominations by Georgetown students, is given annually for excellence in secondary school teaching.