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Pick speakers instead

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An old SNL skit involved a talk show called, “What Were You Thinking?” where a straight-faced host would grill politicians and celebrities over boneheaded decisions. Considering how well Fr. Jenkins has handled the selection of Commencement speaker, he should pray SNL doesn’t bring it back.

I might be reaching here, but I’m guessing most graduates were hoping to hear something a bit more profound than “don’t just hope for change, change hope,” (or whatever the latest arrangement of those words might be). Perhaps they anticipated hearing from a renowned alumnus, from a leading scientist, entrepreneur, doctor, engineer, industrialist, writer, scholar or philosopher. But no. Instead they’ll hear a stump speech from a politician.

Sure, Obama might regale the crowd with riveting stories about how he helped crooked developers expand Chicago’s blight of public housing, or sold out students by backing six-figure salaries for incompetent public school administrators. He’ll probably have the Catholics rolling in the aisles when he tells them how he fought to kill the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, is using their tax dollars to fund overseas abortions or demanded Georgetown University cover the monogram for the name of Jesus Christ as a condition of his speaking there. But I doubt it. It’s as if Fr. Jenkins began the selection process by asking, “How can I alienate our graduates, enrage the Catholic community and turn what’s supposed to be a dignified ceremony into a political circus?”

Fr. Jenkins, I hate to ask, but … what were you thinking? Even Obama’s campus supporters must realize that any speaker who repulses half the student body probably shouldn’t be giving the Commencement address. The purpose of Commencement is to recognize and honor student achievement, not provide a platform to polarizing speakers.

Fr. Jenkins needs a wake-up call. I suggest that during Commencement, at about one minute into President Obama’s speech, students and their families should quietly rise and walk out. No heckling or disruption. Just a calm, deliberate exit. Maybe this will help spare future graduates the indignity of having their commencement ceremonies politicized by absent-minded university presidents.

Edward Cox


class of 1995

April 20