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In support of Fr. Jenkins

Letter to the Editor | Friday, April 24, 2009

Dear Notre Dame students, faculty, staff and family members,

We are writing you all in regards to the growing criticisms over the selection to welcome President Barack Obama for this year’s Commencement. We stand in support of Fr. John Jenkins and our University administration’s decision to host President Obama.

As Notre Dame students concerned with the many dimensions of social justice, we look to the words of our University’s Mission Statement, which reads:

“The University seeks to cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings, but also a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice, and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.”

This ever-urgent call to work for the common good inspires us as it has inspired generations of Notre Dame students before us.

As we continue to address the issues of social justice and the dignity of all people on our own campus, in our country and around the world, we are encouraged by the passion of debate that surround President Obama’s visit to our University. We recognize that all issues of life are important matters that people of good conscience are called to take seriously. This point must not be downplayed and we think it is important to have an honest and open conversation.

As Notre Dame students, we strive to be a concerned community that recognizes the complexity of the many issues that face our nation and our world. We respect diverse viewpoints on issues and we also believe in concerned and genuine dialogue. We think, however, that the debate is being neglected by those who would rather divide than work together for common ground and for the common good. We are concerned that in narrowing the focus to one aspect of life that has often proven polarizing and divisive many have lost the ability to recognize the other aspects of President Obama’s work that continues to uphold the principles of justice and solidarity.

Furthermore we welcome a president to our University that has in many ways helped redefine the history of our nation. We profoundly admire the work of those in the civil rights movement that made it possible for President Obama to come to our campus as our country’s first African-American president. Once a dream held by so many in our nation, we rightly celebrate at our University this momentous occasion for the legacy of social justice and civil rights.

We are proud to welcome President Obama to speak at Commencement just as we have welcomed six sitting presidents before him. We thank our University’s administration for this opportunity. As Notre Dame students concerned with the issues of social justice, we look forward to hosting our President and continuing our University’s Mission to “create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.”

In peace,

Henry Vasquez

Progressive Leadership Council

April 22