Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence gave the commencement address at Notre Dame University. His message was one of hope and encouragement. Pence admonished the graduates to stay true to their religious faith, value the freedom of speech, and leave the world in a better place than they found it. Pence praised Notre Dame as a “vanguard of the freedom of expression.” And for that, a multitude of graduates got up and walked out.
Pence focused on faith and conservative principles such as protecting the historic university from having to go against their religious beliefs to offer birth control coverage to employees under ObamaCare.
“Just as Notre Dame has stood strong to protect its religious liberty, I’m proud that this president [Trump] just took steps to ensure that this university and Little Sisters of the Poor could not be forced to violate their consciences to fully participate in American civic life,” he said.
Pence also praised Trump for his speech earlier in the day to the leaders of 50 Arab and Muslim nations in Saudi Arabia, saying the president “spoke out against religious persecution of all people of all faiths and on the world stage he condemned, in his words, the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.”
In a show of opposition to the Republican Administration, valedictorian Caleb Joshua Pine spoke earlier in the ceremony, condemning Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border.
Unnerved, Pence remained calm while listening to his remarks and he was resolute in his response. “Notre Dame is exceptional,” said the Vice President. “This university stands without apology for human freedom and the inherent dignity of every human person, and it holds fast to the faith that gave it birth.”
The students who walked out on Pence’s speech remind us of two things.
1. We still live in a free nation, where people are allowed to express their feelings – in this case, by walking out on a commencement address.
2. There are inconsiderate, close-minded people everywhere.
Notre Dame is one of American’s premier institutions, a stalwart of traditional Catholic faith. Pence said nothing to counter the beliefs or exceptionalism of the university. He said nothing of great controversy, choosing instead to highlight the dignity of life, free expression, and the virtues of faith.
Rather than sit through the Vice President’s speech, out of respect to his office and the university that has just provided them with a jump start to the rest of their lives, many students preferred to call attention to themselves as they chose to make a scene, rather than even hear what Mr. Pence had to say.
Like so many across America, these graduates of Notre Dame University chose to be known for what (and whom) they are against. What is not yet known is what (or whom) they are for.