Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

The Insider’s Insider Lunches

CAROL JOYNT speaks with Georgetown University President JOHN DEGOIA

A recent luncheon at Nathans
John DeGoia
A recent luncheon at Nathans (top) featured speaker John DeGoia (right) moderated by owner Carol Joynt (left).

Out of the ashes of 9/11, Nathans owner Carol Joynt began hosting monthly neighborhood luncheons at her Georgetown restaurant. The lunches feature a Q&A with the city’s best known leaders, speaking candidly in an intimate atmosphere. Joynt’s power lunches have grown to become the ultimate insiders’ insider lunch, with guests such as Tom Brokaw, Dan Snyder, Tim Russert, Leslie Cockburn and Fred Smith.

WL is proud to annouce that Joynt, a former producer for Larry King, will be a regular contributor, bringing you the best of her Nathans Community lunches. Here are the highlights of a recent lunch with John DeGoia. To inquire about invitations go to www.Nathanslunch.com.

Carol Joynt: Larry Summers, president of Harvard, recently made a controversial statement about whether women have the brains for science. Professor Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado published an article blaming America for September 11 and calling the victims of the attacks “little Eichmanns.” This prompted an outcry by many who argued that Summers and Churchill should not be allowed to speak, and most certainly should not be paid for speaking tours. Is free speech over at American universities?
John DeGoia: No. At Georgetown we have a very explicit policy on speech and expression that we implemented in the late 1980s. Some felt we might limit speech by virtue of [our] religious tradition. But the fact is that we must ensure the widest possible exchange of ideas and opinions so that no one is prohibited from speaking at Georgetown [because of] the content or view that they may express.

CJ: But if you had a professor on staff like Ward Churchill?
JD: Would he have been permitted to speak at Georgetown University if a member of our community had invited him? Yes, he would have. And we would have defended that right.

CJ: The college admissions process is a mystery to many, especially those parents whose kids are white, middle class, in private school and making good grades. What are universities looking for these days?
JD: When I applied to Georgetown in 1975, we had 5,000 candidates for admission, and about half got in. Today Georgetown is roughly the same size but we have approximately 16,000 candidates for admission and only 21% get in. The accepted students are in the top 4 percent of their class, with average SAT scores 700/700. We could easily fill the school three times with virtually identical student bodies. More valedictorians are not admitted than are admitted.

CJ: Does legacy mean anything anymore?
JD: It does, at a private institution. Our admit rate right now for our student body is at 21 percent and for the legacy children it’s about 40 percent.

CJ: So what makes the biggest difference for a student to be accepted?
JD: Let’s assume the brilliance criteria are equal. Then I think we look for a balance of leadership, community service and maturity.

CJ: Community service matters?
JD: It’s a marker for a certain kind of character, and it is very important. How you’re regarded within your school is [also] very important. We’ll have 75 applicants from Andover, and we can’t accept 75 students from Andover.

CJ: So if you’re at Andover, in your junior year you should leave and go to the local public high school back in Illinois for your senior year and then apply?
JD: No, it would have been better to have stayed in Illinois in the first place, do exceptionally well and really distinguish yourself as a leader in that community.

CJ: That’s a frightening thing to hear, especially in a concentrated community like Washington. So if you were sending your son to college, what advice would you give?
JD: What I encourage young people to do is go and look at these places and spend a little time there. My old boss Tim Healy used to joke to freshman when they’d arrive, “Enjoy your first degree, [because] you’ll earn your living on your second degree.” And the thing is, at 18, you come to college as a dependent child, and for the most part, at 22 you are independent when you leave. Something happens between 18 and 22 that enables you to make that transition, and we believe it’s living with some really tough questions: What do I want my life to stand for? What kind of responsibilities do I have to my family, to my community, to my church, my mosque, my synagogue? What kind of career do I want to have, and how do I want to balance that with a family? In those years you join a college community, and you live with people who you’re really connected with for the rest of your life.


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