Notre Dame should welcome Obama at May commencement

Many Catholics are outraged by Obama’s scheduled May 17 commencement address at the University of Notre Dame because they feel his policies contradict those of the Catholic church. They’re particularly upset about his decisions to provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and for international family planning groups that provide abortions or educate about the procedure, according to CBS News.

Notre Dame’s President Father John Jenkins, who invited Obama to come to the school, said that while the university does not condone all of Obama’s policies, it’s important to engage in conversation. That’s exactly why this commencement will benefit all parties, regardless of political or social beliefs.

It is understandable that Notre Dame students, parents and alumni would not support Obama speaking at commencement because some of his policies contradict fundamental Catholic beliefs. But it’s important to point out that it’s highly unlikely that Obama will be pushing his policies or pursing a political agenda while addressing the graduating class.

And people should keep in mind that some students support Obama coming to campus. The Notre Dame student newspaper has received more than 612 letters about Obama’s appearance from students, parents and alumni; and according to CBS News, 73 percent of student letters supported his appearance. Among the 95 seniors who wrote letters, 97 percent supported the president’s invitation. While there are more than 250,000 signatures protesting Obama’s planned appearance, a group of students at Notre Dame collected more than 360 signatures on April 6 supporting Obama’s appearance, and they plan to gather even more as the week continues.

It could easily be said that Americans are looking at those protesting Obama’s appearance as an anomaly. We acknowledge the peoples’ right to protest, but no matter how much protesting actually occurs, it’s also unlikely that Notre Dame will rescind their invitation to the President of the United States. Obama will not be the first president invited to speak at commencement at Notre Dame; the university has a tradition of inviting sitting presidents to speak at commencement. Jimmy Carter spoke in 1977 and Ronald Reagan spoke in 1981 — and neither of them were Catholics.

Notre Dame should welcome the President of the United States as their commencement speaker. This can be a perfect opportunity to bring people together — people with differing and unique opinions. And maybe Obama’s appearance will further the discussion of abortion, embryonic stem cell research and family planning. This is an opportunity — not a travesty.