Friday, March 27, 2009

"That would be rude."

Source article located HERE, from AP/Yahoo.

The University of Notre Dame, located in Indiana, has invited President Barack Obama to speak during their commencement exercises in May. This decision, like just about all the others associated with this president, has caused a great deal of commentary.

Notre Dame is a Catholic university, first and foremost. There's a crucifix in every classroom, 80% of the student body is Catholic (93% Christian), and the Catholic mass is celebrated no less than 100 times every week in various locations on campus.

Having said all that, there's obviously no requirement of being Catholic to enroll; most colleges are content to take anyone's money. Well, they're happy to take anyone's money NOW: Notre Dame didn't admit women until 1972. Notre Dame has a history of broad political discourse: in 1987, the independently produced student newspaper was considered to be "too conservative", so a separate liberal paper was formed. And in 2003, the original newspaper was considered "too liberal", so a third "conservative" paper was founded.

The uproar over the invitation of Obama basically centers around his intent to fund embryonic stem cell research and his policies of support for international family planning groups that offer abortions or educate people about them. Official Catholic doctrine opposes both abortion and embryonic research. The local bishop has said he will not attend commencement in protest.

The president of the university, the Rev. John Jenkins, makes my argument for me. His position is that while the university does not endorse all of the positions of President Obama, it is important to have communication. Whether or not they want to make him a Catholic saint, Obama is THE PRESIDENT of the United States, a position that (for better or worse) makes what one says important and noteworthy.

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to play for two sitting presidents: George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Each time was fun, exciting, and memorable. Why? Because it was the president. The president, that guy from TV, here within eyeshot! Cool.

The majority of Students seem to agree that it'd be "cool". Seventy-three percent of the letters sent to the paper support the invitation; 95% of senior class letter-writers approve. By contrast, 70% of alumni who wrote in disapprove. Several conservative student groups have announced their opposition. Even the bishop of Phoenix, AZ (?) weighed in, calling the selection a "public act of disobedience".

The title to this entry comes from a quote in the article. One student didn't think Obama should have been invited because of his policies, but that it would have been rude to "uninvite" him, once asked. It may be "impolite", but would that really be a concern if one believed he was essentially advocating sinful actions?

I've been to many more commencements than most people will ever attend in their lives; not just because I have three certificates under my belt, either. For the previous four years, twice a year, I attended many of the commencements offered by UMKC. Most commencement speakers are nothing special. They're local businessmen who talk about how important college was for them, how much their education helped with real life, and how much graduates should thank their families. If you're at a more prestigious school, maybe an actor from Star Trek will come. Or that guy from Family Guy to do a few voices and drink some scotch.

What's Obama going to say, anyway? "I command you, graduates, to go forth and kick babies while raping dogs! Do this for me!" No, he's probably going to cover the same ground everyone else covers, without mention of abortion or fertility or stem cells or even religion.

Maybe the Catholic institutions are looking at this the wrong way: they need to give Obama the rope to hang himself with. Remember when President Ahmadinejad of Iran came to Columbia University and said Iran had no homosexuals and no oppression of women? Do you think many people in that room thought he was completely correct about those statements? Most probably thought he was off his rocker.

Maybe Obama will thoughtlessly advocate the burning of Catholics as heater fuel while he's at the podium. Or maybe he'll just stand up there and come off as a likable and well-reasoned man.

Either would probably make the hard-liners nervous.

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