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Candidates invited to speak at University

Kaitlynn Riely | Monday, September 8, 2008

Over the next two months, presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will be traversing the country, each making his case that he is the best person to lead the nation for the next four years.

But will they pitch their candidacy in Notre Dame, Ind., prior to Election Day Nov. 4?

Notre Dame has invited the presidential candidates for the Democratic and Republican tickets to come to campus every presidential election year since 1952, Assistant Vice President for News and Information Dennis Brown said.

Letters of invitation to the Obama and McCain campaigns are being sent early this week, he said.

Then-University President Father Theodore Hesburgh initiated the tradition of asking presidential candidates to speak at Notre Dame campus in 1952, Brown said, when he invited Republican nominee Dwight Eisenhower and Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson to speak on campus. Both accepted and spoke at Notre Dame, he said.

The invitation to the presidential candidates is “an invitation to come speak on campus, on some sort of substantive policy issue, not a campaign rally type event, but rather a public policy speech,” Brown said.

Junior Edward Yap, the president of the Notre Dame College Republicans, told The Observer last week that he hopes his party’s candidate, Sen. John McCain, will come to campus.

“Notre Dame is a very welcoming place for political candidates,” he said. “I believe that McCain will experience a welcome that will rival any other welcome he sees in any other parts of the nation. He will be very warmly received here.”

In an interview last week with The Observer, Notre Dame College Democrats co-president, senior Spencer Howard said he would like to see Sen. Barack Obama or his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), come to speak at Notre Dame.

“We’d love for that to happen,” he said. “It’s a busy schedule, I know, for both of them to get around the country.”

Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), spoke at Notre Dame and at Saint Mary’s last spring, and Obama spoke at Washington High School in South Bend in April, before he was the Democratic Party’s nominee.

The last presidential or vice presidential candidate to visit Notre Dame during a campaign was Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), when he ran with former Vice President Al Gore in 2000 on the Democratic ticket. Neither party sent a candidate in the 2004 presidential race between Republicans George Bush and Dick Cheney and Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards.

When Bill Clinton was running for president in 1992, he spoke on campus, and in 1988 then-Vice President George H.W. Bush accepted Notre Dame’s invitation to speak on campus when he was running for president, he said. Democrat Walter Mondale spoke on campus when he was running for president in 1984, having already visited campus in 1976, when he was running as vice president with Jimmy Carter, who also spoke on campus that same year.

In 1972, Democratic vice presidential candidate Sargent Shriver spoke at Notre Dame, and in 1968, Democratic vice presidential candidate Ed Muskie spoke.

In 1964, Republican Barry Goldwater’s running mate William Miller, the only Notre Dame graduate to have ever been on the presidential ticket, came to Notre Dame to speak, and four years earlier, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., who was running for vice president on the Republican ticket with Richard Nixon, spoke at Notre Dame. Richard Nixon spoke in 1956 when he was running for vice president with President Eisenhower, Brown said.