President Obama was warmly welcomed at the University of Notre Dame – proving that many Catholic students, parents, friends, and relatives were able to keep a saner and calmer mind than the 35% of the Catholic hierarchy who decided to equate President Obama’s presence with Judas-like treachery.
Apparently, the 35% have forgotten that Pope Benedict had issued a position paper saying the death penalty “is not only a refusal of the right to life, but it also is an affront to human dignity” and went right ahead and hosted George W. Bush – fondly known as the Texecutioner. Ah, where were those protestors then? Or could it be that many of the so righteously indignant cherry-pick which tenents of the Catholic faith to uphold?
Despite alumni attempts to coerce Father John Jenkins to retract the University’s invitation to President Obama, Father Jenkins remained steadfast in upholding the University’s tradition – beginning in 1960 with then-President Eisenhower delivering the first such address – of hosting the President of the United States as its commencement day speaker.
And, President Obama did not disappoint. Even those who originally objected to Obama’s presence and receipt of an honorary degree were pleased with his speech. The President refused to duck and weave and dodge the issue of abortion and, instead, confronted the uncomfortable topic head on, urging respect and civility with”open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words.”
Protesters in the crowd sporadically interrupted Obama’s commencement address before they were shouted down by the rest of the graduates. Imagine that – the very idea that many of the soon-to-be graduates really wanted to hear what the President had to say.
Obama – with grace and courage – faced the task of stepping onto a stage knowing full well that a tempest was brewing outside the University stirred by the likes of outsiders Randall Terry and Alan Keyes – the perennial political candidate who was drafted to challenge Obama in the 2004 Illinois Senate race despite never having lived in Illinois.
But despite the efforts of Terry and Keyes to turn the graduation ceremony into a fiasco, the tempest remained in its teapot, the Catholic hierarchy remained out of touch, and Obama reached out to those with opposite views.
Photo Credit: University of Notre Dame