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Don’t invite Donald Trump to commencement

| Friday, May 19, 2017

Fr. Jenkins,

It has been years since I last read an Observer article, and even longer since I wrote a letter to the editor, but today I found myself, drawn back, through social media: Friends had shared an article about whether Donald Trump would be invited to speak at the 2017 Commencement. As a student and as an alumnus (and, in fact, until the results of this election), I was proud of the University’s tradition of inviting the sitting president, regardless of party, to speak. Now, I am terrified of associating Donald Trump with the best traditions, let alone the intellectual and moral life, of our University.

There is so much to say about the reasons not to pick Trump — much of it said during the course of the presidential campaign. Rather than repeat the innumerable scandals and embarrassments, I want to focus on three things which I’m sure you look for in a commencement speaker: inspiring Notre Dame’s newest alumni, commending the value of higher education and furthering the unique mission of Notre Dame.

First, and most basic, can you imagine Trump inspiring the class of 2017? Can you even imagine him saying anything of value, at all, to a graduate? When you ask students, faculty, staff, trustees, Holy Cross priests or other trusted friends, can they imagine it? He speaks at a lowest common denominator level, playing to fear and insecurity, trading on innuendo and conspiracy theories.

Second, Trump may be among the worst people to uphold the value of higher education among our recent graduates. That may sound hyperbolic, but this man has utter distain for any sort of learning or expertise, as he demonstrated by claiming to “know more about ISIS than the generals do,” and that that his “primary foreign policy consultant is myself” because “I have a very good brain.” Learning should inspire humility about the limits of one’s own knowledge; as Socrates reflected: “The ancient Oracle said that I was the wisest of all the Greeks. It is because I alone, of all the Greeks, know that I know nothing.” Who can picture Trump ever betraying a hint of ignorance about anything? That, after all, would be a sign of weakness.

Third, and finally, Trump’s words and conduct are antithetical to Notre Dame’s unique mission. As a student, I was inspired by the University’s commitment to teaching the whole person, to promoting a moral and spiritual, as well as intellectual, education. Trump represents no kind of moral or spiritual life. Everything that Trump says, everything that he does, is in service of himself and his ego. The things he likes, the things he does, are the best; he says kind words about those who support him or treat him well, and no one else. Those who oppose him are liars, failures or losers. I am not saying that our commencement speaker must be Catholic, or even Christian, but Trump’s conduct provides no evidence of any guiding moral principle, beyond pride.

Fr. Jenkins, I can think of no worse commencement speaker than Donald Trump. It is prestigious for the University to have presidents speak at commencement, but surely prestige alone cannot drive this decision. What shall it profit the University to have Donald Trump as a speaker?

Mike Romano

class of 2004

Dec. 7

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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  • Apathy In USA

    Notre Dame used to be a distinct and unique university. As the church has become more progressive in its globalist bent so has Notre Dame. The student at Notre Dame are no different than the politically correct snowflakes that believe that freedom of speech is for everyone as long as they agree with the progressive liberal Marxist view and that any speech in disagreement with this view is relegated to a free speech zone. If a commencement speech is the springboard to inspiring a successful career then just skip the (4) years of indoctrination. When US Presidents are not welcome to speak on University campuses because they don’t meet our personal expectations then we are headed to a place where all speech will be controlled. The religious universities will no longer enjoy the same freedoms guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. Donald Trump may not be everything we expect but he still is the President.

    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke


  • BCSWowbagger

    Unfortunately, the Rubicon was crossed with President Obama. Notre Dame is now committed to the principle that any president — even a cheerleader for the killing of millions — must be invited to speak at commencement.

    President Trump is thoroughly unpleasant and unworthy in all the ways the letter-writer describes… but he has not participated in crimes against humanity with the gravity or scale of President Obama. Yet President Obama was invited anyway. Therefore President Trump must be as well.

    In a perfect world, we would invent a time machine, go back to 2008, and get rid of this silly policy before the school committed to it.

    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

      What is your issue with Obama? Obama was the best president in a long time.

      • BCSWowbagger

        As everyone at this Catholic college is aware, President Obama actively enabled, promoted, and fought for the killing of unborn children by the hundreds of thousands, both in America and overseas. He participated in an atrocity. Pres. Obama was not the first U.S. President to do so — Jackson killed Indians, FDR interned the Japanese, Buchanan protected slavery — but that’s no excuse. A Catholic institution has no business giving an honorary degree to a man with the blood of deliberately murdered children on his hands.

        I think Trump is a rotten president, but, compared to President Obama, he is a considerable improvement.

        (Where I give President Obama credit is his personal life. He was, by all accounts, a genuinely decent human being to his family and those around him. Trump is not. But being a nice guy doesn’t justify dead babies, either.)

        • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

          Stop doing drugs.