A civic sacrament
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, December 6, 2016
At 2:47 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9, once it had become clear that Donald J. Trump would become the next president of the United States, the Notre Dame College Republicans published the following tweet:
“Every President since Carter has spoken at Notre Dame commencement in this first year of office. We’re ready for President @realDonaldTrump.” [Editor’s note: President Bill Clinton did not speak at Notre Dame]
The College Republicans brought to our attention the possibility of hosting President Trump as the 2017 Commencement speaker. This idea led the two of us — a Democrat and a Republican — to consider the process for selecting Notre Dame Commencement speakers.
We value and vaunt the fact that six U.S. presidents have spoken at Commencement; their presence is a source of pride and is indicative of Notre Dame’s prominence as an academic institution.
Of course, not all invitations to POTUS have been met with equal support. For example, in 2009, protest and anger erupted due to President Barack Obama’s position on abortion. Flyers depicting aborted fetuses were disseminated, and the president was disrespectfully interrupted multiple times during his speech, once being called a “baby killer.” We recognize that there were legitimate moral concerns about President Obama’s speech at Commencement, just as we are cognizant of legitimate moral concerns should President Trump be invited to speak at Commencement.
Though the two of us disagree on national political issues, we stand together in support of dialogue, debate and bipartisanship.
In this same spirit, we propose that each graduating class actively engage with the University in selecting their Commencement speaker. We propose that the senior class be invited to recommend potential speakers and have the opportunity to publicly discuss the merits of each nominee with their classmates, faculty, staff and administrators. Commencement is, after all, an expression of the character of this community.
The American people elected President Trump to represent the values and aspirations of the United States of America. Similarly, we believe that our community should have the opportunity to select a Commencement speaker who represents the values and aspirations of Notre Dame. Let us not forget the wisdom of Fr. Hesburgh: “Voting is a civic sacrament.”
On November 8, the American people took part in this sacrament and voted their conscience. Now it is time for Notre Dame to do the same.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.