A (Mostly) Fine Commencement


Some 100-150 members of the class of 2017 “respectfully” walk out on Vice President Pence’s commencement address in an officially sanctioned demonstration.

NOTRE DAME, IN — Except for a few minutes of university-sanctioned agitation by a handful of discomposed students, the 2017 Notre Dame commencement was a fine affair.

As the sun broke through the threatening clouds, some 24,000 family and friends joined the 2031 graduates in the stadium to witness a moving and impressive ceremony. Father John Jenkins’s introduction of Vice President Mike Pence was pacific and graceful, and the Vice President in turn praised Notre Dame fulsomely while commending the graduating seniors and their families and urging the graduates to a life of service worthy of their university.  And in his praise of Notre Dame for being open to controversial speakers, Pence charitably overlooked the fact that he was speaking rather than President Trump in the wake of anti-Trump protests by thousands of Notre Dame students and faculty.

The Vice President was warm and generous and radiated good will.  The audience – well, nearly all the audience — in turn welcomed him with enthusiastic applause both at the outset and often along the way. Including, it may be well to note, when Pence declared his pride at serving with President Trump.

And while, as we have reported, the university debased the Laetare Medal by awarding it to a priest who disdains the Church’s teaching on same-sex marriage, doubtless few in the audience realized it.

You can watch Father Jenkins’s introduction here and Vice President Pence’s address here.

But you would almost surely know none of this if you read or heard about this event in newspapers or online or on the radio or by a television report. There was a tsunami of reports for one reason only – the walkout by some 100 to 150 students when Pence was introduced. And if there was a headline or a video clip – and there were lots of those – that didn’t feature the walkout, we haven’t seen it.  Go here for 18 pages of Google citations of articles and videos about Pence and the Notre Dame commencement. Here’s a video on which you can hear the boos directed at the students though only part of the walkout, and here’s a better one of the walkout.

And so, after one wave of publicity for having Pence instead of Trump as commencement speaker, Notre Dame gets another — for having Pence. The walkout may not have deserved the national attention it received, but it was entirely predictable that it would get it. The students had announced it well in advance so that everyone would be ready with camera and notebook.  And the run-up to the event had been widely publicized: the revulsion of Trump on campus; Notre Dame’s apparently bypassing him as commencement speaker; and then the extravagant denunciations of Pence by protesting students. (To wit, he is “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, offensive, or ostracizing to members of our community,” and his presence makes students “feel unsafe.”)

If the university, knowing all this, had a good reason for giving the students the green light, it did not disclose it. The Notre Dame spokesperson said the university was concerned about the weather but not about the walkout, which he said would be “respectful.”

He must have meant they would not curse or throw tomatoes or make faces, for “respectful” is a word that does not come readily to mind about students who turn their backs and walk out on the Vice President of the United States when he begins to speak.

Nor did the supposed precedents cited by the spokesman explain the university’s unconcern. None of them – and in particular the student protests of the honoring of President Obama and Vice President Biden at prior commencements – took place inside the stadium during the commencement ceremony. In Obama’s case the seniors held their own graduation ceremony at the Grotto after a Mass and a rally on the quad attended by several thousand including Bishop John D’Arcy.

Since the anti-Pence students did not show the same consideration for their fellow graduates and their families and as did the students opposing the honoring of Obama and Biden, the Church’s formidable adversaries on abortion, same sex marriage, and religious liberty, it seems a fair question why the university did not oblige them to do so.

Why, that is, did it not tell the students that it expected students to be courteous to the university’s guests, not least to the Vice President of the United States; that the other 1,931 graduates and their families deserved a joyful ceremony unmarked by any gratuitous dose of hostility; and that if the students wished to protest, they were free to do so elsewhere on the campus and receive their diplomas via the United States Postal Service?

As for the protesting students, one said she was afraid that “a lot of people will think that this was just a bunch of liberal snowflakes trying to make themselves feel good about themselves at graduation.” She was perhaps correct. She also called those who booed the students hypocrites for objecting to the students’ exercise of free speech, evidently forgetting for the moment that the students had wanted to keep Pence from speaking.

Still, it was a sunny and happy day for almost everyone on the South Bend campus.

May God bless and keep the graduates of the Class of 2017!

Annual Breakfast Reminder

If you’ll be at Notre Dame for Reunion Weekend (or you’re in the vicinity) plan to attend Sycamore Trust’s annual breakfast meeting on Saturday morning June 3. Our principal speaker will be Professor Gerard Bradley of the Law School, who will discuss the presidential election as it may affect the interests of the Church and Notre Dame. Click on the link below for tickets or to register for a live broadcast of the event.

Information & Registration

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If like us, you want to see an authentic Catholic renewal at Notre Dame, please take a minute to review our 2016 Annual Report and consider making a year-end donation to Sycamore Trust.

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13 Responses to “A (Mostly) Fine Commencement”

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  4. Bob Swindeman '55 May 29, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    Maybe Mary should be removed from the top of the Administration Building. They can keep the Golden Dome since that seems to best represent the school’s prime interest. Bob S. ’55

  5. The LGBTQ presence on campus and the Gender Studies addition to the curriculum, in addition to acquiescing to the demands of the NCAA and the LGBTQ pressure groups under threat of social disorder and financial retribution, may well be required by the Federal Government as strings attached to federal grants and federal funding. It is all about money.
    Patrick Hart ND Class ’61

  6. William E Dotterweich May 29, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    The one characteristic that the pubescent juveniles who walked out on the Vice-President share is selfishness. They exhibited no concern for the adverse impact on their classmates or the University’s reputation their action would have. They can brag in the future how they “got it off” at graduation. Maybe, someday, when and if they grow up, they will look back on their actions with shame and remorse rather than pride. I doubt it.

  7. Regarding the walkout, I was underwhelmed by the reported numbers. I suspect that protesting Japan’s whaling policies would have gotten a higher number of walkouts.

    Factor in all degrees being awarded (3,171), and we are talking between 3.2% and 4.7% of the degree recipients.

    I am not impugning the objectors sincerity, but rather noting their inability to generate any widespread enthusiasm for their action.

    IMHO, that is because many (most?) feel that Mr. Pence is an honorable, God-fearing man, who is trying to do his best in the most trying of circumstances. His boss is fickle about policies and principles, has an ego always in need of lavish attention, and an inability to engage in reasoned and focused debate with his interlocutors (image Lincoln and Douglas using tweets — you can’t, can you?). That Mr. Pence doesn’t suffer from such deficiencies makes his mature attitude and emotional stability vital in the executive realm.

  8. It has occurred to me repeatedly that given the history of the leadership at ND to repeatedly subordinate Catholic teaching to prevailing secular interests e.g. failure to stand for IN religious liberty legislation, Laetare Medal awards, Honorary Degree award to Obama, dilution of Catholic faculty, that the creation of a Gender Studies program and LGBTQ campus group may be a capitulation to the demands of the NCAA and their threat of financial retribution. Witness the power and the role of the NCAA in NC and IN, witness the power of the LGBTQ lobby destroying the Boy Scouts by threatening their sponsors. The ND leadership’s repeated refusal to practice what they preach, the display of blatant hypocrisy, professing one thing and doing another. Is this an outrageous perversion of timeless universal natural law values, not to mention Gospel values, foisted upon us disguised in the veil of legitimacy, standing every sense of right and wrong on its head, in the fearful pursuit of protecting the ND sports programs and the revenue therefrom from boycott by the NCAA and the LGBTQ lobby?
    Patrick Hart ND class ’61

  9. Too bad that Notre Dame has become so pusilanimous with its “any thing” goes attitude.
    The question that Msgr Kelly asked loe those many years ago, “Is Notre Dame Still Catholic?” along with most other so caled “Catholic” universities, Jesuit controlled in particualar, if one has the lack of “political correctness ” to state is a resounding “NO!”


    Matthew 24:37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

    The present days are worse than the days of Noah, because Love Became Flesh and Dwelt among us.

    “Our Lady was the one who prevailed on her Son to work His first miracle at Cana in Galilee. She is still the one, through whose intercession He wants to perform miracles now, on earth, in our day. But there is one condition: We who have the faith, must believe. And we who have the grace, must use it to live lives of heroic virtue.” Father John Hardon

    To deny the Sanctity of human life from the moment of conception, and the Sanctity of the marital act and marriage and the family, is to deny that God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Is The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage, and thus deny Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy.

    To deny Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy, and thus the fact that God desires that we desire to overcome our disordered inclinations, whatever they may be, repent, and become transformed through Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy is to love the sin, and hate the sinner.

  11. Bill Sigler '58 May 29, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Bill, I was in the stadium for my grandson’s graduation. You neglected to remind that the students and others who peacefully demonstrated against the honoring of President Obama were arrested and charged, I believe at the university’s request, and then had to engage in several years of litigation that ended only when the university backed down. One might also conjecture that the highly visible presence of the Secret Service and a good number of other security personnel helped dampen down the enthusiasm of those students who felt so unsafe around the VP!

  12. Luke Philippsen May 29, 2017 at 8:17 am

    The protesting students are for diversity, except when it comes to diversity of thought.
    They are for tolerance of others, except when it comes to someone that offers an opposing viewpoint.

  13. This great article by Timothy, upbeat, looking for positive aspects of the 2017 graduation, also points out very clearly the hypocrisy of the libs/lefties/”progressives”/Democrat hacks and of Jenkins himself. The kids, what do they know? They are inexperienced in the ways of the world, ignorant practically of the legitimacy of natural law, conservatism, reality life, but JENKINS, Jenkins should know better. HOW DOES THE MAN SLEEP AT NIGHT?