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Student response upholds University character

Staff Editorial | Friday, April 24, 2009

It has now been five weeks since President Barack Obama was announced as Notre Dame’s May 17 Commencement speaker, and the controversy that this decision has generated has now unquestionably touched every member of the Notre Dame community, and so many others around the nation and the world.

Many of those contributing to the controversy exist completely outside of the Notre Dame bubble, and they continue to fuel the fire that the president’s Commencement invitation has started. Yet the University’s students should be proud for avoiding being engulfed by the proverbial flames.

Our campus has been placed under a microscope in the past few weeks, but they – the outside protest groups and national media who have over-politicized a non-political issue – ultimately aren’t here for us.

The outside groups with militant attitudes who see the Golden Dome as little more than a “golden opportunity” for their causes aren’t here because they love the University or hope to defend its Catholic tradition. The Notre Dame name is a high-profile one that attracts significant media attention; it’s the reason why so many have flocked to South Bend to use our campus as a platform for their political agendas.

Yet under this microscope, our students have thrived. As alumni groups tally up the donations they’re withholding and pro-life radicals attempt to bombard our campus with graphic language and images, students on this campus have carried themselves with a level of class and maturity that seems to have eluded many others.

There are students on both sides of this issue, but we haven’t let that rip us apart.

Groups like ND Response and the Progressive Leadership Council, who have organized dignified responses and encouraged healthy discussion, have helped uphold the true nature of Notre Dame at a time when outsiders threaten to tear it down. A large number of students on both sides of the issue have inundated our Viewpoint section with letters, which is indicative of the passion and care with which we approach this issue.

The Notre Dame family is built on a sense of community unlike that found at any other university, and the young men and women who walk this campus on a daily basis have refused to forget that.

Like any family, disagreements are inevitable, and serious arguments between those among us are to be expected from time to time.

But like any family, we need to come together more than ever in times like these. Students have not, and must continue to never succumb to those who take adversarial, aggressive stances against our family.

Rather than denouncing the University and distancing themselves from it, as some in this community have done, the University’s students have remained strong in their commitment to the Notre Dame family.

We should all be proud of that. Proud that none – neither those opposed to nor those in favor of Obama’s invitation – have shied away from the intelligent, mature discussion of this important issue.

And, most of all, we should be proud that to those who have pledged to “make this a circus,” our reply has been loud and clear:

We won’t let you.