Embrace the President’s address
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, March 24, 2009
To the many Viewpoint writers who oppose President Obama’s future commencement address: You need to take a step back and truly think about what you are saying. You may not agree with the president’s views – especially those on abortion, as you have clearly voiced – but needless to say, he is still the president, and you should be honored that he chose our institution to deliver a commencement address.
Think about it: Any sitting president could speak at essentially any university graduation he or she wants, and out of the thousands of colleges and universities in our country, ours was chosen as one of three this year. In 2001, then-President Bush spoke at graduation here at Notre Dame. I’m not going to hide my religious or political beliefs. I am a Catholic who is liberal. I agree with little of what President Bush did during his eight year presidency, but if I had been graduating from Notre Dame in 2001 instead of 2009, I still would have been honored that the current president spoke at my graduation. It is a point of great distinction and something that all current students, alumni, faculty, and staff should be proud of. It is absurd for all of you to suggest that simply because his beliefs on abortion differ from yours that he should not be welcomed here. Let me ask you something: As a Catholic university, should we no longer welcome the study of stem cells? Should we not learn about other religions besides Catholicism? Should we ban the Alfred R. and Lee Abrams Collection in Hebrew and Jewish studies from the library? The obvious answer is no – because if we did that, this university would not be living up to the ultimate goal of being both the preeminent and preeminent-Catholic institution in the world.
Even if you do not agree with stem cell research or share the beliefs of members of other religions, it is still essential to learn about, discuss and welcome speakers who do maintain these beliefs because otherwise, it would be close-minded and perpetuate a “bubble” around the university. You cannot ignore the world around you. You have to listen and learn about other people’s opinions – even if you disagree with them – because that is what being a university student (not to mention an informed, intelligent individual) is all about. If your “love affair with the University of Notre Dame” has truly come to an end after learning about the president’s future visit, and you honestly do not want to attend your child’s graduation this May (as one of you suggested in your letter), then I think you should sell your commencement ticket online. There are thousands of people who would buy it from you and would be thrilled to hear our president speak. You should be honored for the opportunity, not disgraced.