Society

Notre Dame Passes Over Donald Trump For Mike Pence

| by Robert Fowler

The University of Notre Dame selected Vice President Mike Pence to deliver a commencement speech for May graduates.

The selection of Pence over President Donald Trump bucks the precedent of the Catholic university inviting presidents to speak, with the invitations traditionally offered during their first year in office.

On March 2, Notre Dame announced it would give Pence an honorary degree and that he will deliver the university's commencement address on May 21, America Magazine reports. Pence is the first sitting vice president to receive the invitation.

"It is extraordinarily humbling to return to my home state and address the graduates of Notre Dame," Pence said in a statement, according to the Chicago Tribune.

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Notre Dame president John Jenkins released a statement suggesting that the selection was made partly because Pence is the former governor of Indiana, where the university is based.

"It is fitting that in the 175th year of our founding on Indiana soil that Notre Dame recognize a native son who served our state and now the nation with quiet earnestness, moral conviction and a dedication to the common good characteristic of true statesmen," Jenkins said, according to America Magazine.

Notre Dame's invitation to Pence arrives after speculation over whether the university would invite Trump amid the protestations of Catholic leaders against the president's immigration policies.

On Jan. 31, the Catholic Theological Society of America condemned Trump's executive order on refugees and travel freeze on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, stating that the directive "violates both the norms of Christian ethics and the human rights that all can affirm no matter what their faith."

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In December 2016, Jenkins said he was unsure if the university would invite Trump given his controversy in the Catholic community. He cited the protests against former President Barack Obama when the university invited him to speak in 2009, with Catholic church leaders taking issue with his stance on abortion rights.

"I do think the elected leader of the nation should be listened to," Jenkins told The Observer, Notre Dame's newspaper. "And it would be good to have that person on the campus ... At the same time, the 2009 Commencement was a bit of a political circus, and I think I'm conscious that that day is for graduates and their parents -- and I don't want to make the focus something else."

Notre Dame has featured more sitting presidents as commencement speakers than any other non-military university. The university had invited former Presidents Dwight Eisenhower in 1960, Jimmy Carter in 1977, Ronald Reagan in 1981, George H.W. Bush in 1992, George W. Bush in 2001 and Obama in 2009, according to USA Today.

Bill Clinton was the only other president during in modern history who Notre Dame did not invite to speak, America Magazine notes.

Sources: America Magazine (2), Chicago TribuneThe Observer, USA Today / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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