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Anne Thompson on Fr. Hesburgh

| Sunday, March 1, 2015

At the Friday editorial meeting for “NBC Nightly News,” I was trying to explain Fr. Ted’s impact to a room of people who had never met him. And it hit me. I told them Fr. Ted had impacted the lives of everyone in that room, even though they probably didn’t know it. It didn’t matter if you were Catholic or not, a Notre Dame grad or not, Fr. Ted had made their lives better by pursuing a world vision he saw as more just, more fair, closer to God’s intention.

As I told the stories we know so well about Fr. Ted’s work on the Civil Rights Commission, his march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his decision to make Notre Dame co-ed, I realized that sitting in this room were the results of his life’s work. I was looking at Fr. Ted’s vision of America. An America where an African-American man anchors the national news, and no one thinks twice because at this moment, he is the best person to sit in that chair.  An America where women cover the White House, Congress, the State Department, education and the environment not because they look good but because they are accomplished, talented journalists who can intellectually go toe to toe with anyone. An America where the managers of the broadcast hail from all different cultures and experiences and come together every day to produce the news. It is not perfect, it is a work in progress, but a work that has made stunning gains in a handful of decades.

Fr. Ted gave us opportunity. It was never a handout, it was always a challenge. It was never enough just to earn a Notre Dame degree. The real test, Fr. Ted told us, was what you do with it. Do you bring light where there is darkness? Do you build bridges where there are divisions? Do you give of yourself?

Though our guiding light is gone, Fr. Ted’s challenges to us remain. May they be our guideposts as we continue our mission to make this University one of the most powerful means of doing good in this country.

I can never say it enough: Thank you, Fr. Ted.

Anne Thompson

class of 1979

Trustee, University of Notre Dame

Chief Environmental Affairs Correspondent, NBC News



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