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The value of ‘vanilla’

| Sunday, January 26, 2014

I wish to offer a response to your recent editorial (“Our commencement speaker,” Jan. 24). The Observer has made known its displeasure with this year’s so-called boring choice of commencement speaker, but I believe that you do yourselves and the University a disservice through your slanted commentary on this issue.

You claim to not want to be “bored or uninterested on one of the most important days of [your] lives,” but it seems to me that you are ignoring the real benefit of a neutral speaker: He causes no controversy and takes no attention away from the graduating class. You opine for the likes of Melinda Gates or Eric Schmidt, but have you considered the consequences which would follow an invitation to either? Melinda Gates has been heralded in the press as “throwing the gauntlet in the face of the Vatican” by claiming to be a faithful Catholic while donating millions of dollars to provide mass contraception services in Africa. Eric Schmidt was a campaign advisor to President Obama and currently serves on his Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. You may have forgotten — though I doubt it — that our University is currently suing the Obama administration over the requirement that our insurance provide contraception coverage to University employees. What kind of publicity (and alumni) fiasco would we be embroiled in now if the University had followed your advice?

Furthermore, you yourselves noted that awarding honorary degrees is a momentous occasion for the University. The University must be careful whom it chooses to invite into the Notre Dame family. In 2009, we learned what happens when a University claiming to be faithful and Catholic makes a poor choice in this regard. The Obama debacle consumed and marred what should have been an exciting, positive final semester for the graduating class. I doubt very much that the administration will err in that way again. Christopher Patten was governor of Hong Kong, chairman of BBC and is the chancellor of the world’s most famous university. There are plenty of students on campus who would dispute your labeling such a man “vanilla.” I suggest that you embrace this opportunity to learn something new and interesting during your controversy-free graduation. I hope you will. There’s more to consider here than just the name recognition of the speaker.

Michael Rangel
Zahm House
Jan. 25

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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