What do I think about Barack Obama speaking at Notre Dame’s commencement? I think it is awesome!
While I wasn’t fortunate enough to attend Notre Dame, I did grow up around the campus… spending more than my fair share of time trespassing and dreaming that I could go there. As the largest employer in my hometown you don’t need to be an alumni or staff at the school to get the feel for Notre Dame. So take my opinions with a grain of salt. I grew up pretty close to campus and spent a lot of my time squatting in the library in high school.
With that said, here are 5 things that come to mind about our President speaking at Notre Dame on Sunday.
1. There is racial tension on campus. Indiana, as a whole, still has a long way to go in relations between whites and blacks. Notre Dame has experienced significant issues along racial lines as recently as 5 years ago when Ty Willingham was fired as head football coach. For as long as I can remember there has been this weird thing that while the football team and basketball team (the pride of the campus) has been predominantly black… the majority of students are white. Walk around the campus and you’ll see people from dozens of ethnic backgrounds. Pakistani’s, Israeli’s, Russians, Indians, on and on. I love that the University continues to be proactive in addressing the tensions.
2. Notre Dame isn’t the most Catholic place on earth. While Notre Dame is largely seen as the bastion of American Roman Catholicism, it is also a modern university. Like any modern university there is an acceptance of divergent points of view. Just like Harvard doesn’t have every policy dictated by its religious background, Notre Dame doesn’t have every move governed by the Vatican. You don’t have to be Catholic to attend the University, nor do you have to be Catholic to teach at Notre Dame. More than most Presidents, Barack Obama is qualified as an academic… who knows, once this gig as President is over he may be teaching in the law school!
3. Notre Dame has given honorary degrees to the last eight sitting Presidents. The South Bend Tribune does a great job documenting who has received degrees (much more than Presidents) and just looking at the list, you’ll see that this fervor has more to do with the media being bored than it really being a true issue for Notre Dame. Hank Aaron, Neil Armstrong, William F. Buckley Jr., J. Edgar Hoover, Erma Bombeck, Stephen Hawking, Coretta Scott King, Harper Lee, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Cosby, Lech Walesa and Elie Wiesel.
4. It is an honor to have a sitting President speak at your commencement. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat or even from another country… it’s an honor to have your commencement address delivered by the President of the United States. I’m totally jealous. I have no idea who the guy was who spoke at my graduation. Nor do I remember a single thing he said.
5. This is really about dragging the President into the abortion debate. Let’s call it what it is, right? Notre Dame has a long history of inviting the President to speak at commencement. Certainly looking at that list above you don’t see a list of people who agree with every point of Roman Catholicism. This is a transparent attempt by the media to bring the old lithmus test thing into the Supreme Court nomination process. Watch how CNN and FoxNews do it. They feature a story about Obama at Notre Dame and then segway into the Supreme Court discussion without tying the two. We’re not that stupid!