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Gates the wrong choice for Commencement speaker

Benjamin Linskey | Monday, January 31, 2011

Last week’s editorial endorsing the selection of Robert Gates as this year’s Commencement speaker failed to take into account the gravity of the United States’ current military engagements overseas and Secretary Gates’ role in those operations. As a senior graduating in May, I am troubled by Secretary Gates’ selection. Although he has had an impressive career marked by a number of praiseworthy accomplishments, Secretary Gates’ role in recent U.S. foreign policy decisions makes him an inappropriate choice for Commencement speaker.

48,156 U.S. soldiers and civilian government employees have been killed or wounded in U.S. military operations in the Middle East as of Jan. 28, according to the Department of Defense. I, like many Americans, do not understand what purpose is served by our nation’s continued military presence in the Middle East, and I fear that our foreign policy does little to keep America safe. I would welcome a visit from Secretary Gates in an academic setting, but the Commencement is not a venue for inquiry or debate. His role in the ceremony and the University’s conferral of an honorary degree upon him will give the appearance of a tacit endorsement of the Bush and Obama administrations’ foreign policies, even if such an endorsement is not intended.

I look forward to reflecting on my experiences at Notre Dame and celebrating everything I love about our University on my graduation day. I am disappointed, however, that the centerpiece of that day will be a speech delivered by one of the chief exponents of a foreign policy that I believe is deeply misguided. It is my hope that Secretary Gates’ selection as Commencement speaker will at least prompt those of us in the Notre Dame community to seriously consider the wisdom of the decisions he has participated in over the past four years. Though we may disagree in good faith about the necessity and justice of the United States’ recent military actions, we would do well to remember Jesus’ teaching, which lies at the heart of our University’s mission: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Benjamin Linskey


Duncan Hall

Jan. 29