President Obama is getting a lot of attention this week for the commencement addresses he will make.
He spoke last night at Arizona State, which famously declined to give him an honorary degree saying his body of work is not complete yet (do only dead people get honorary degrees there?) He turned it into a joke, promising never again to pick against ASU in his NCAA hoops bracket.
The university's Golden Dome.
Most of the attention, though, is directed at my alma mater, Notre Dame. A front page story in the Washington Post yesterday really got my attention. It talked about all sorts of protestors coming out of the woodwork to protest and disrupt graduation ceremonies this weekend. This is also a sore subject with me since I am spending much of this month at my own sons’ graduations and know how special these occasions are.
Every U.S. president since Gerald Ford has received an honorary degree from Notre Dame. (There is a neat video montage of these speeches on the ND website.) Presidents like going there, for obvious reasons, and the students there benefit by hearing from presidents. I was privileged to be in the audience as a student in the mid-70s when President Ford received his honorary degree and spoke (it was on a St. Patrick’s Day as I recall). President Carter spoke to the graduating class right before mine; our speaker the following year was William F. Buckley who delivered a rebuttal to Carter’s speech (Carter’s Notre Dame speech was the famous “inordinate fear of communism” speech). Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush have all spoken there. Of those previous six, three were pro-life and three were pro-choice.
We are talking about the president of the United States. Any university would be privileged to have a president speak and no university worthy of being called a university would sort through presidents using some sort of scorecard. And I am not a religious scholar, but I do recall that Jesus honored people from all walks of life and with all kinds of issues in their past.
I am as honored that the president is speaking at my alma mater (and I have felt the same about ALL of the previous six) as I am appalled that so many are using my alma mater as a whipping post for their political agenda.
I said before that I am not a religious scholar, but allow me to quote from someone who is: my old classmate, roommate and friend, R. Scott Appleby, a professor at Notre Dame: “People are weary of it,” Scott said. “I certainly feel this is not the best way to respect life. It makes the cause a circus.”
That sums it up. Regardless of how you feel about abortion, or stem cell research or any other issue, reasonable people have different views and a university is a good place to discuss and debate them. But hijacking a graduation and turning it into a circus is not the way to go.