Obama at Notre Dame

I went to Notre Dame.  I watched the president’s address at commencement today.  I was proud.

A story was told by Obama of University President Emeritus Theodore Hesburgh’s role on the Civil Rights Commission, which negotiated and drafted the resolutions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Apparently, Hesburgh was the key to the members finding common ground.   At the end of Obama’s remarks, he was presented with a photo of Hesburgh and Martin Luther King, Jr. at a rally singing We Shall Overcome.  At 92, Hesburgh was in the audience today.

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Here are two important excerpts from the proceedings:

President Obama has come to Notre Dame, though he knows well that we are fully supportive of Church teaching on the sanctity of human life, and we oppose his policies on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

Others might have avoided this venue for that reason. But President Obama is not someone who stops talking to those who differ with him.

Mr. President: This is a principle we share.

As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote in their pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes: “Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.”

– Rev John Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame


…the fact is that 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.

Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.

It’s a way of life that has always been the Notre Dame tradition. Father Hesburgh has long spoken of this institution as both a lighthouse and a crossroads. The lighthouse that stands apart, shining with the wisdom of the Catholic tradition, while the crossroads is where “differences of culture and religion and conviction can coexist with friendship, civility, hospitality and especially love.”

…But remember too that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt.

…This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, and cause us to be wary of self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open, and curious, and eager to continue the moral and spiritual debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame.”

– Barack Obama, President of the United States


Both parties are emphasizing a point I make to my daughters:  unless you are willing to listen and understand, you cannot expect another to do the same.  I would like to see this attempted in Washington.

Mr. President, if you mean what you say, you are welcome at my university.

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