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The selection of Pence as commencement speaker

| Tuesday, April 25, 2017

To all my fellow peers upset over the selection of Mike Pence as commencement speaker,

The great university of which we are a part provides each and every student with the chance to make the biggest leap in our lives whilst preparing us for our desired career path. This leap is simple: maturity. The University of Notre Dame provides us with the opportunity to study ourselves and critique the person we have become. None of us should be happy with who we are, especially with who we were just a few years ago in high school. At Notre Dame, we have the opportunity to meet and live with people from various backgrounds, and the diverse nature of these backgrounds makes them invaluable. There are students who come from all corners of the United States, bringing geographical diversity and a wide array of local cultures within the larger American culture. There are students from different nations, bringing with them not only geographical and cultural diversity, but also experience from societies different than our own. Then, there is the diversity each and every single student brings: our own experiences and opinions. Notre Dame allows each and every single student to interact with people with highly varied backgrounds, experiences and ideas while bettering our skills for our careers. We get the opportunity to put aside conflicting viewpoints and try to understand each other on a human level. This allows us to hear viewpoints that we otherwise would have never heard within our own echo chambers.

With this said, I find it fascinating that some of my peers are protesting the selection of Vice President Pence as the Commencement speaker for this year’s graduation. In an article previously published in The Observer, students stated that Pence represents values that “silences certain minority groups” due to statements he made in the past. I want to take this opportunity to state this simple fact: Every single rational student at the University of Notre Dame will never support any infringement on any person’s right to speak or any acts of attainder against people of any background in this country. However, it is vital for us to use reason to separate words from action. Silencing of opinion and elimination of rights can only come about through actions. Words cannot silence one from speaking or prevent one from conducting his or her own life how he or she chooses. Unless the former Indiana governor directly supports acts that try to do either of those two, qualms about Vice President Pence’s Commencement speech seem to be rather unfounded. And with that said, it is important to note that Vice President Pence has not tried to suppress speech or minorities at all.

This leads us to a critical question: What does it say about an individual that a politician’s words make he or she feel like they are being silenced? The cliche “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is cliche for a reason: It is true. The words of a politician cannot harm any individual — only the actions of a politician can. It is also important to note that the very fact many students are upset at Vice President Pence’s past words means they have not learned the most vital part of civilized society: tolerating other points of view. An opposing point of view should never be decried as “making one feel unsafe.” The only way a person can feel that way is if they let that view emotionally impact their actions and cause them to act differently than if the opinion was not uttered. I’m sorry, but that is a sign of immaturity that will cause one to become functionless within actual society. Not every single person in the entirety of society will agree with your opinions; this is a simple fact of life. What each and every student here must be willing to do is put personal animosity for words aside and instead recognize that the second most powerful person in the entire world has been invited to speak at our University. Whether that person was Mike Pence or Tim Kaine, it should not matter. We should be honored that Vice President Pence agreed to speak, and we should give him the respect we should be giving to all people: respect for his right to speak. Protesting his Commencement speech is support of silencing his right to speak. Each of us individually would not want our speech to be silenced, so the least each and every one of us can do is apply that same standard to the Vice President. I ask all students who have chosen to force themselves to feel unsafe over the Vice President speaking respect this basic standard of civilized society.

Christopher Klein 


April 24

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Hootie Swan

    Two quick points of view that should be greatly tolerated as outlined above:

    1) I think you should be more open minded to people being upset about someone denying their existence… I would be inclined to say that if I said you didn’t exist you might get a little upset about it as well.

    2) You quite literally contradict yourself in not tolerating the view points that are offered by those opposing Pence to come speak. You might want to enter into your own “civilized society” and respect those who hold different viewpoints than your own. In which case, why share any view point at all if everyone should just openly accept it with open arms and not speak out against it then what is the point. By posting this article, you wanted people to think critically and respond/reflect on whether they agreed with what you were saying or not. You are quite literally calling people to agree or disagree with you in dismissing other people’s views. There is no such thing as the “civilized society” you speak of where no one speaks out for what they believe in otherwise there would be no discourse what so ever.

    Please think about opening your own mind and tolerating other people’s viewpoints before you accuse those who disagree with you of not doing so.

    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

      A lot of “free speech” advocates seem to be unable to understand that freedom of expression doesn’t include freedom from criticism.

      • Gator McClusky

        They have the intellectual and emotional development of a 7 year old

        • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

          I’m talking about you, idiot.

          • Gator McClusky

            Youre talking about youself

          • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

            Triggered again?

    • Bailey

      1.) Mike Pence never said he denied anyone’s existence, that you infer that speaks to your own prejudice and not his.
      2.) Mindreading is projection.

      • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

        You don’t seem to know how to read.

        • Gator McClusky

          You don’t seem to know how to think

          • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

            Did you get triggered?

      • Gator McClusky

        What difference would it make if he did
        If my opinion is that asparagus tastes terrible am I automatically diminishing those that like it – ummm no, and I am entitled to my beliefs no matter how outrageous. What these nimrods are doing is censoring opinions and speech based upon the reactions some people may have to them which is ridiculous because there is no way to account for those reactions nor is the speaker responsibly for them either
        It is a classic case of responsibility shifting

    • Gator McClusky

      Who cares if your “existence” is allegedly denied
      It doesn’t stop you from existing, does it.
      Nobody has the right not to have their ideas challenged and nobody has a right to be automatically treated with respect or “sensitivity”.
      If I go around demanding that the world is flat despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary I would rightfully be treated with scorn and mockery.

      • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

        63% of the American people support LGBT rights. You are part of the homophobic minority.