This past week, universities across the country have been spending millions upon millions of dollars in race to see who can get the best, brightest, funniest, and most famous commencement speakers. Mostly so that college grads can all name-drop about who spoke at their own graduation. For instance, financial analyst, CNBC talkshow host, and two-time nominee for TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, Suze Orman, spoke at my graduation yesterday.
But all the frivolity of it aside, there has been a surprising amount of controversy this past week over the speaker at Notre Dame: none other than President Barack Obama. Some members of the Catholic church were outraged when the leading Catholic university invited the President to speak there, since he is pro-choice, and the Catholic church is strongly opposed to abortion.
“Presidents from both parties have come to Notre Dame for decades to speak to our graduates — and to our nation and world — about a wide range of pressing issues — from foreign policy to poverty, from societal transformation to social service. We are delighted that President Obama will follow in this long tradition of speaking from Notre Dame on issues of substance and significance,” said university President John Jenkins.
However, Obama went ahead and delivered the speech anyways, and discussed the abortion issue while he was there, too.
“I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away,” he said. “At some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.”
What do you think? Should the protesters have put politics aside in favor of respect for the President of the United States? Or is it not fair for someone pro-choice to speak at a Catholic university?