Today President Barack Obama will address the 2009 graduating class of Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. Can you imagine, many years later, being able to say that a sitting president of the United States of America gave the commencement address at your graduation? Wow! What an honor. The leader of the most powerful nation in the world!
All week long demonstrators at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana have been protesting over President Obama’s pro-choice stance and his view on stem cell research. So far, 19 have been arrested. While there have been some student protests during the past few weeks, those arrested have been non-students. The moment they come on to school property, they are arrested. Who are these protestors? From all appearances, they are a hodgepodge of followers of Randall Terry who used to lead Operation Rescue. Some readers will remember the group that blockaded women’s clinics, chained themselves to medical equipment and cars, harassed patients and kept patients from entering and exiting the clinics.
In 2005, many members from this same group descended on Pinellas County, Florida, to protest removing Terry Schiavo’s feeding tube. Schiavo had been in a persistent vegetative state for seven years.
In addition to the remaining stragglers of Operation Rescue, former presidential candidate Alan Keyes is there making his statement as well as priests, bishops and other clergy. Norma McCorvey, the original Jane Roe in the Roe vs. Wade decision, is also there speaking badly of the president. Some are protesting that President Obama was even invited to speak. Others are protesting that he will be given an honorary degree from Notre Dame because he does not represent the Church’s values. It appears to be a real three ring circus.
Seven other distinguished Americans will receive honorary degrees along with Obama. They represent many different walks of life and philosophies. Notre Dame is to be commended for its endeavor to broaden minds rather than stifle knowledge; it is, after all, a university of distinction with a strong academic reputation. Schools like Notre Dame encourage thinking and do not turn out cookie cutter graduates who simply regurgitate facts. Academicians of national and international stature proudly claim Notre Dame as their alma mater.
According to Time Magazine:
Three-quarters of Catholics either approve of or offer no opinion on Notre Dame’s decision to invite Obama, and the same percentage of U.S. bishops have opted to stay out of the fight. However, for a small but vocal group of conservative Catholics, the episode has become an opportunity to draw lines between those who are genuinely Catholic and those whom they accuse of being Catholic in name only — even the head of the country’s premier Catholic university.
Those attempting to influence the university should be ashamed of themselves. Surely the Catholic Church does not want to be seen publicly as the ‘thought police.’ The world will be watching tomorrow to see the kind of respect given to all the dignitaries. Some of the protestors are asking where the prominent Republicans are. They have stayed away. They have more class than to show up with this bunch of rowdies.
The protestors seem to have no respect for the Office of the President. The circus has indeed come to town. Hopefully, the focus will remain on those who are graduating rather than the uninvited clowns.