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Proud to be a ‘fighter’

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, March 22, 2006

No doubt, there will be many alumni, students and Irish fans who will be up in arms over Paul L. Richards’ letter to the editor on March 22. In that letter, Mr. Richards “serves notice” to both the NCAA and the Notre Dame community about his offense at the term “Fighting Irish.” Mr. Richards, who is neither an alumnus nor a student, should be forgiven for his obvious ignorance of the University of Notre Dame and its history.

In the face of rising bigotry and intolerance in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the University of Notre Dame (while not founded by the Irish) served as a haven for Irish and Catholics alike. Anyone who came to this university could rest assured in the fact that they would not be judged, graded or discriminated against based on his race, religion or culture. This was a policy at the University even at a time when membership in the Ku Klux Klan was on the rise in nearby towns and communities.

This stance did not come without a cost. Notre Dame students (and not just its Irish students) often got into physical altercations and conflicts with Klan members during the early 1900s to 1920s. Notre Dame students made sure not only to protect its own, but also to take a stand against intolerance and bigotry. We literally were the “Fighting Irish.” While times have changed, the spirit remains. It is for that reason that many – including myself (full disclosure – I am neither Irish, nor Catholic, nor even American) – take pride in being a part of The Fighting Irish.

Shawn Ahmed

sociology graduate student

March 22