President George W. Bush: 'Revive the Spirit of Citizenship'
Commencement address at University of Notre Dame, May 2001.
BY: President George W. Bush
Thank you, Father Malloy. Thank you all for that warm welcome. Chairman McCartan, Father Scully, Dr. Hatch, Notre Dame trustees, members of the class of 2001. It is a high privilege to receive this degree. I'm particularly pleased that it bears the great name of Notre Dame. My brother, Jeb, may be the Catholic in the family -- but between us, I'm the only Domer.
I have spoken on this campus once before. It was in 1980, the year my Dad ran for Vice President with Ronald Reagan. I think I really won over the crowd that day. In fact, I'm sure of it, because all six of them walked me to my car.
That was back when Father Hesburgh was president of this university, during a tenure that in many ways defined the reputation and values of Notre Dame. It's a real honor to be with Father Hesburgh, and with Father Joyce. Between them, these two good priests have given nearly a century of service to Notre Dame. I'm told that Father Hesburgh now holds 146 honorary degrees. (Applause.) That's pretty darn impressive, Father, but I'm gaining on you. As of today, I'm only 140 behind.
Let me congratulate all the members of the class of 2001. You made it, and we're all proud of you on this big day. I also congratulate the parents, who, after these years, are happy, proud -- and broke.
I commend this fine faculty, for the years of work and instruction that produced this outstanding class.
And I'm pleased to join my fellow honorees, as well. I'm in incredibly distinguished company with authors, executives, educators, church officials and an eminent scientist. We're sharing a memorable day and a great honor, and I congratulate you all.
Notre Dame, as a Catholic university, carries forward a great tradition of social teaching. It calls on all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic, to honor family, to protect life in all its stages, to serve and uplift the poor. This university is more than a community of scholars, it is a community of conscience -- and an ideal place to report on our nation's commitment to the poor, and how we're keeping it.
In 1964, the year I started college, another President from Texas delivered a commencement address talking about this national commitment. In that speech, President Lyndon Johnson issued a challenge. He said, "This is the time for decision. You are the generation which must decide. Will you decide to leave the future a society where a man is condemned to hopelessness because he was born poor? Or will you join to wipe out poverty in this land?"
In that speech, Lyndon Johnson advocated a War on Poverty which had noble intentions and some enduring successes. Poor families got basic health care; disadvantaged children were given a head start in life. Yet, there were also some consequences that no one wanted or intended. The welfare entitlement became an enemy of personal effort and responsibility, turning many recipients into dependents. The War on Poverty also turned too many citizens into bystanders, convinced that compassion had become the work of government alone.