Monday, May 18, 2009
On Notre Dame and Obama
I started this post as a comment in response to a post that my friend from college wrote after reading the LA Times this morning, but it got long so I decided to put it here. Of course, Kim is much more eloquent than I will ever be, but this is how I see the swirling controversy surrounding our President giving the commencement address at my alma mater.
I consider myself extremely lucky to be a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, a school often labeled as one of the nation's premiere catholic institutions. A label it justly deserves as the very air of Notre Dame is infused with a spirtuality that is palpable. Some of the memories that I hold dear from my college years are the walks around the lakes, the visits to the grotto, dorm masses, walking across the parking lot at sunset hearing the band practice the alma mater, long nights hanging with my friends. The school makes no amends and offers no pretense of being anything other than a catholic institution, but it is also an institution of higher education and a welcoming place. People aren't turned away because they aren't catholic, differences of opinions are inevitably voiced and debated as occurs at any university. Albeit with a larger voice to more traditional. conservative values.
Barack Obama was invited to give the commencement address at this most conservative catholic university and he accepted. A dubious selection by the university, maybe. A PR opportunity for the president, maybe. People have protested this choice because he is pro choice, pro stem cell research. However, as ND's president Rev. Jenkins was quoted as saying "Others might have avoided this venue for that reason (knowing of the inevitable protests), but President Obama is not someone who stops talking with those who differ from him." For if you do not discuss things with those who see things differently than you than how can you ever reach compromise. Obama said in his speach "When we open up our hearts and minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground." He also contended that the two sides of the abortion debate may have "irreconcilable differences", but they can also find a common ground in working to increase accessibility to adoption and in decreasing the rate of unintended pregnancies.
As an institution of higher education if Notre Dame was to shield its students from the political debates of our time because they disagree with the church than in my opinion the university wouldn't be doing its job to educate future members of society. If the clout of the university is such that the President will speak to its graduates as they head off into uncertain times, then I applaud them. Learning to find common ground in life, in jobs, in careers is essential. I am proud that Obama spoke at Notre Dame and that at least the majority of the university community welcomed him.
... just to clarify, no this doesn't mean I agree with all of Obamas politics