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Don’t decide based on one issue

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The news of Notre Dame inviting President Obama to speak at our Commencement in May certainly has travelled far and fast. My friends abroad, in China and Europe, have sent me emails exclaiming their excitement. My grandfather, who lives in Hawaii and has absolutely no idea how to use the Internet, somehow figured out about our invitation to Obama and called to congratulate my parents before I could even break the news. Personally, I was thrilled to hear that President Obama will speak at our graduation, just as I would have been thrilled to hear that President John McCain would give the address.

Consequently, I was surprised to see the Viewpoint pages of The Observer filled with vitriolic articles expressing the extreme disappointment and outrage of both students and alumni. I understand that many at this university oppose President Obama’s pro-choice policies and support of stem cell research. And I understand how Catholic identity matters so much to this school. But to deny the leader of the free world a place to speak at Commencement because of his pro-choice policies and support for gay marriage is not just wrong, it’s a dangerous way to look at the world. Viewing the world through the prism of a single issue tends to create a black and white picture; while, in my experience, there are plenty of moral issues that exist in shades of grey. If you disagree with the President’s policies on abortion, then oppose his every initiative and mobilize support against them. But don’t deny President Obama a place to speak on the basis of one issue when universities are meant to be a place for discussion, debate, and free speech. Four decades ago, Father Hesburgh linked arms with Martin Luther King Jr. to decry the racism that infected our society and stand for justice and equality. This May, our University will bestow an honorary degree on the first African-American President, a man married to a woman who is the direct descendent of slaves. This is America at its best. I’m proud to call Barack Obama my President. And I’m proud that my university has taken the initiative to invite him to speak.

Gavin Payne


off campus

March 23