Put away your white boards, fellow Domers

Put away your white boards, fellow Domers

To seniors at the University of Notre Dame who are upset that Vice President Mike Pence is your commencement speaker, I just want to let you know that I’ve been there.

As a graduate of Notre Dame’s class of 2009, I was dismayed to learn that then-President Barack Obama would be my commencement speaker. My disappointment in this decision came not because I personally disagree with his politics and policies—which, for the record, I certainly do—but because his extreme stance on abortion is antithetical to the teachings of the Catholic Church, teachings that Notre Dame has heralded as its guiding principles for the better part of 174 years.

The administration justified this controversial decision back in 2009 by saying that “difference must be acknowledged, and in some cases even cherished.” University President Fr. John Jenkins explained that the university has “a long custom of conferring honorary degrees on the President of the United States,” and Notre Dame has an established tradition of inviting sitting presidents to be the commencement speaker—a tradition it apparently didn’t have the courage to honor this year. And hence, here you find yourselves with Vice President Pence as your speaker.

One of the many differences between Vice President Pence and President Obama is that Mr. Pence’s beliefs largely align with those of the Catholic Church. Specifically, Vice President Pence is adamantly pro-life, and he believes in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.

I assume that if you are smart enough to graduate from the University of Notre Dame you were also smart enough to know when you applied for acceptance what kind of place Notre Dame has long sought to be: namely the country’s preeminent Catholic university. Where other Catholic universities have let Church doctrine and dogma fall by the wayside, embracing secularism with each passing year, Notre Dame has stood strong (for the most part): There are chapels in every dorm; unmarried men and women do not share living spaces; and prayer is still very much a part of campus life.

Therefore, it should come as no great shock that someone like Vice President Pence seems an uncontroversial and fitting candidate for commencement speaker at a place where the Catholic faith is embraced as a way of life. But certainly, not every student at Notre Dame is Catholic, and, just like in 2009, not everyone agrees with the chosen commencement speaker’s politics and policies.

But there are good ways to handle controversy, and then there are ridiculous ways. I was upset that President Obama was chosen as my commencement speaker, but I sucked it up. He was my president, and he was my commencement speaker. My personal feelings did not change the facts of the situation.

I attended my graduation, proud of my accomplishments and cognizant of the fact that that day was not about who was speaking, but about who was graduating. I held my head high and respectfully listened to President Obama’s speech.

So, here’s some advice, from one Domer to another: put away your white boards, retire your banal hashtags, and temper your indignation long enough to listen to what the Vice President of the United States has to say to you. You might not agree with him on everything, but you might just learn something from him.

Your time at Notre Dame should have taught you to operate outside your “safe space,” to confront and think critically about ideas you find challenging, and to productively and respectfully engage with people whose backgrounds, values, and ideas differ from your own.

Notre Dame should have taught you to face challenges head on, not to flee from them claiming you “feel unsafe.” It should have taught you that truth, not political correctness, is paramount. There are real problems in the world; there are challenges that we have to face collectively. We will only be able to do this if we can candidly confront each other without fear of “offending,” “triggering,” and the like. I learned this during my time at Notre Dame. If you didn’t, then you have much bigger problems beyond who will deliver your commencement speech.

About author

Brittany Clingen Carl
Brittany Clingen Carl 2 posts

Brittany Clingen Carl is a writer for Smart Girl Politics and the editor and publisher of Reclaiming Feminism, a site featuring feminist editorials and content from the perspective of conservative women. Brittany lives in the Chicago area with her husband and very spoiled pug.

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