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Acknowledgement, not acceptance

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I applaud the administration’s courage in extending an invitation to Barack Obama to speak at Commencement this year. As the controversy flares up already, I feel that it is important to remember that a university provides an opportunity for people who disagree to come together for the purpose of learning in a way that is respectful to all participating parties. Inviting Obama to speak does not mean that the University supports abortion; rather, it means that the University recognizes that a person’s personal beliefs do not invalidate their potential to contribute constructively to academic dialogue.

Dissent is a powerful force that has value in politics, academics and faith. The disagreements among our community strengthen our beliefs that are correct and challenge those that are not. Where agreement cannot be found, disagreement teaches tolerance and understanding. I disagree with many of my fellow students on a wide range of issues. I certainly hope that this does not invalidate my contribution to the Notre Dame community or suggest that I do not have a place here. I also hope that my differences and disagreements contribute in a small way to a dialogue that is as proud a tradition to our school as its Catholic identity. Likewise, I hope that this controversy promotes a respectful dialogue among all of us about the meaning of respect for life.

It is my personal belief, for example, that the closing of Guantanamo represents a critical step forward in our national responsibility to uphold human rights. Environmental policy is also a crucial component of a being a holistically pro-life nation. Being pro-life is about an attitude and lifestyle and encompasses our entire relationship to our fellow humans and to our planet, not merely whether or not you support anti-abortion legislation.

So let’s talk. I invite you to disagree with me, or your roommate, or the kid in your Philosophy class, or Barack, or anyone you please. I only ask that you respect my opinion, their opinions, whether or not those opinions match your own. Acknowledging difference of belief need not imply support or endorsement. Instead, this acknowledgment does justice to the complexity of cause and effect that all of these issues involve. Acknowledging difference is the first step towards learning and understanding, towards embracing the purpose and mission of our school. Our nation faces challenges every day that involve many different people with many different interests. I would think that the man who wakes up every morning trying to balance it all probably has some interesting things to say.

Joe McLean


off campus

March 23