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Student creates T-shirts in support of Obama

Amanda Gray | Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Graduating senior Matt Degnan has decided to voice his opinion about President Obama’s Commencement speech by designing a T-shirt that reads, “Obama? Fine by me.”

Degnan began his defense of Obama in a Letter to the Editor titled “Not on my campus” in The Observer on March 26.

“The design actually evolved from a plea I made in a Viewpoint [letter] which was published a few weeks ago,” Degnan said.

“The original design said ‘Please don’t ruin MY graduation.'”

In the letter, Degnan addressed a Notre Dame alumnus, Kevin Keane, who threatened to protest Obama speaking at Commencement by displaying signs of aborted fetuses in an earlier Letter to the Editor.

After discussions with friends, the slogan changed to “Obama? Fine by me.”

“We felt that ‘Obama? Fine by me.’ better represented a sense of respect, acknowledgement and tolerance,” Degnan said.

Degnan chose shirts over other mediums for the slogan because they put a face to the protest.

“A shirt actually ties you to what it says,” Degnan said. “The same slogan on a poster has no identifiable point of view; no one knows who is making the statement. When students wear the shirt people know they support our graduation speaker.”

Around 80 shirts have already been sold, and another 200 have been ordered, Degnan said.

The T-shirts are being sold for $10 each and all of the proceeds will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization founded to defend the civil liberties guaranteed to United States citizens through the Constitution and similar documents, according to the organization’s Web site.

Negative response has been kept to a minimum, Degnan said.

“I personally have not received any negative responses to date,” Degnan said.

That’s not to say the shirts haven’t sparked debate.

“One person who bought a shirt was in class wearing it and a debate about the issue started because of it,” Degnan said. “I’m excited that it’s increasing dialogue on the issue.”

Students aren’t the only ones buying the shirts.

“One of the largest demographics of people buying the shirt is actually faculty members,” Degnan said. “I’ve sold shirts to people within the design, business, art history and physics departments, as well as administrators.”

Degnan urges all who support the shirt and its meaning to wear the shirt today.

“I will also be selling shirts [today],” Degnan said. “If you cannot get one, I encourage you to make one, do anything you can to show support.”

The shirts are available through www.viral-tees.com­­ and are selling for $15 for those who would like a shirt but aren’t on campus.