Laura Myers | Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Dear Father Jenkins,
I would like to commend your decision to accept the President of the United States as this year’s Commencement speaker. It is an honor to the University and to its students, especially those in the Class of 2009. If only I were so lucky.
Now, I know that some people are less than pleased about your choice. They say that some of the President’s opinions differ from theirs, and thus you should rescind the offer immediately.
I struggled with this too, at first. The guy’s a Steelers fan, for crying out loud. That’s not something to take lightly.
However, I was raised to respect people for their opinions, not to ostracize them. I can also acknowledge that no matter how hard I cheer on the Browns, it will not make Obama any less of a Steelers fan. But I’m sure that everyone can find some common ground. As I told a friend at church camp a few years ago, she could freely root for the Steelers as long as she threw in a “Go Irish!”
I realize that many of those upset by the President’s upcoming appearance feel that his political actions violate Catholic Social Teaching, and I do understand their concern.
But what about Notre Dame’s last Presidential graduation speaker?
The former President Bush spoke here in 2001, his first Commencement address after ascending to the presidency. Before that, he was Governor of Texas and oversaw the execution of 155 people. How does that go along with Catholic social teaching?
Personally, I would be honored to have George W. Bush as my graduation speaker. I think his speech would be great.
I don’t know this for a fact, but I bet that when the former president spoke here, those currently in an uproar were less outraged and more akin to South Park’s portrayal of tween girls at a Jonas Brothers concert. Please, please, Fr. Jenkins, do not Google that.
Maybe everything doesn’t have to be about perfect Catholicism or even about politics. Maybe our President is a good example of hard work paying off, of breaking barriers, of having a positive impact. Maybe that’s what Commencement should be about.
I have always loved Notre Dame, from the days I toddled around in a cheerleader outfit to the days I got my acceptance letter, took my first theology class and sat in the press box on a football Saturday. Sometimes I just walk around and think about how amazing it is that I actually go here.
President Obama obviously recognizes how special this place is as well – he chose us as one of only three colleges at which he will speak.
I respectfully request, Fr. Jenkins, that you do not let the voices of the few deter you from showing the president the same respect he has shown to this institution and all those who love it.