I have a few thoughts regarding the issue about Notre Dame publicly considering not inviting Donald Trump for a commencement speaker. Here’s a link to a Washington Post article.
Here are a few excerpts from the article.
Notre Dame University may not extend an invitation to President-elect Donald Trump to this year’s graduation, a move that would break with a decades-long tradition of inviting presidents in their first year to deliver the main commencement address at the South Bend campus…
University President John Jenkins said the 2009 commencement featuring President Obama was a “political circus” that he is loath to repeat at this year’s ceremony…
“My concern a little bit is that, should the new president come, it may be even more of a circus,” he added.
This is the strongest valid point I believe Notre Dame has in taking this position. I think it’s proper and valid to assess whether or not the speaker is being a major distraction and somehow affecting what should be a celebration of the graduates. With as politically divided as this country is, it is probably reasonable to believe that people would not be so courteous as to not protest or take the new President’s presence as some personal affront to them.
I have a couple issues with this, but I also understand the reality. My issues are (1) people should grow up and be respectful, and this shouldn’t be a concern to begin with, (2) I have a real question as to whether or not this is really an honest conclusion on the part of John Jenkins. Is he prepared to say that, going forward, no Presidents will be invited under the current political environment? If so, then fine. But I can’t help but suspect that had Hillary Clinton won, she would be invited to speak. I can’t know that, but I strongly suspect it. (3) Why did Notre Dame so adamantly stick to their guns on this in Barack Obama’s first year? They knew it would be a circus, at least from the standpoint of being a Catholic Institution. Now, having said all that, if this is a new policy where Notre Dame says that going forward, we just want the day to be about our graduates and our politics are toxic and from this day forward no President or President-Elect will be invited, well, then that’s not a problem.
And then there is this:
“I do think the elected leader of the nation should be listened to. And it would be good to have that person on the campus — whoever they are, whatever their views,” Mr. Jenkins told The Observer, the student-run publication of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.
This is hogwash. At least the “whatever their views” part. This is an academic institution, but it irks me to no end that these Catholic higher institutions consider discourse of ideas to be a higher calling than their own Catholic identity whenever that discourse of ideas runs afoul of Catholic teaching. I have no idea with the idea that we should listen courteously to Barack Obama talking about general topics, or religion-neutral policies, whether I agree with his perspective or not. I take great issue with having Catholic doctrine openly challenged on a Catholic campus. And it is a perfectly reasonable position, if someone holds very public views expressedly contrary to Catholic Doctrine (not just differences in preferred opinion), to not invite any person – regardless of status or position – who holds those views.
Conservative cardinals and bishops opposed the invitation of Mr. Obama at the time, citing his views on abortion which run contrary to church teaching. Prominent alumni also lobbied the school to disinvite the president.
Mr. Jenkins has expressed disapproval with the president-elect’s stance on immigration.
Eight years ago, Notre Dame ignored Bishops and Priests and expressed that the god of Academia reigns Supreme, and they had to know it would rankle people. But now, there is no such dilemma. Yes, it’s true that Trump is controversial, has said some things that are not all that nice, and has in the past held views contrary to Catholic views. But as a candidate, and so far as a President-Elect, he has taken positions that can only be described as pro-religious freedom, pro-life, and simply not contrary in any way to Catholic doctrine. Yes, it’s true that there is all sorts of disagreement about how to deal with immigration, and we need to have that debate. And there is a real moral component to that, but there is room for disagreement.
In the end, I understand where the folks of Notre Dame are coming from. I just wish I could really believe them. They do not have a history where I trust that this isn’t just another response by sore-loser, snowflake-ridden, progressive academia presented as something else.