Obama’s speech at Notre Dame: A sneak preview

Obama commencement.jpgBy great good fortune, or the designs of Providence, the text of President Obama’s commencement address this coming Sunday at Notre Dame has fallen into my hands. It is a powerful exposition of Obama’s approach to the most controverted aspect–for some Catholics–of his appearance at Notre Dame and his presidency: namely, abortion.

Here’s the top:

“I am grateful to the university for inviting me here today. In a strange way, I am grateful also to those who protest at my coming to Notre Dame because it has made me more conscious of the need to explain the policies of my administration on this deeply sensitive, powerfully emotional issue of abortion.”


“So, dear graduates, permit me to explain, at this university that is the crowning glory of Catholic higher education, what my administration intends to do on this that is of such significance to the Catholic community. For 35 years, Americans have been shouting at each other about Roe v. Wade. Many are shouting still today. We had to pass by their shouts to enter the hall today. How do we find common ground when the issue is so divisive? Is it foolish to even try?”

Okay, so I found the speech in the latest edition of The Tablet of London, and it is actually a journalistic exercise by Michael Sean Winters, who “offers a speech for the President to silence his critics.”


But it is a good read. Obama could do worse, and may. But should he focus so single-mindedly on abortion? And I doubt anything he says will silence his critics. The full text is available only to subscribers, but here is a passage that gives a good sense of the whole, and I think is the strongest and most appealing part:

“I believe that common-sense proposals to try to reduce the abortion rate are the only available common ground. I believe that if we stop shouting at each other and listen to the women who are actually facing an unplanned pregnancy, we will find plenty of work to do to help them through a difficult chapter in their lives. I believe that if we as a nation and as a culture rally to the support of women facing crisis pregnancies we will both protect women’s constitutional rights and promote what Pope John Paul II called ‘The Gospel of Life’.”


“I believe that if we seek common ground on this most divisive of issues, it will be easier for us to work together on the other urgent moral tasks facing our nation. We must continue rebuilding our economy so that a day’s work earns a just wage and that the dignity of work becomes the ethical foundation of our economy, not the mere glorification of profiteering which has turned Wall Street into a synonym for greed and worse. We must work together to bring peace to Iraq. We must work together to enact humane immigration reform that honours our nation’s tradition of welcoming immigrants while securing the border from those who wish us ill. We must work together to protect the environment, to show ourselves to be good stewards of God’s creation.”

So is such an approach foolish to try? I suspect Obama can never win over his enemies, but I hope he will show greater grace and intelligence than than they, and if he does he will carry the day among the great majority disposed to agree with him.

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posted May 12, 2009 at 9:28 am

This isn’t about intelligence or grace. This isn’t even about President Obama.This is about objective right and wrong. This is about Notre Dame’s defiance of Bishop John D’Arcy and the Roman Catholic Church, of which Notre Dame claims to be a part.

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Your Name

posted May 12, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Everybody has heard of Notre Dame.. nobody out side of So Bend ever heard of D’Arcy until he shouted out. Nobody will ever hear of him again .. he reires this year.. we call his protest a swan song

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Anna Krestyn

posted May 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm

“I suspect Obama can never win over his enemies, but I hope he will show greater grace and intelligence than they.”
Perhaps some of Obama’s opponents have seemed hotheaded over the Notre Dame situation. Perhaps they seem to have lost interest in mature adult dialogue. Perhaps some of them have. But that doesn’t change the truth of Archbishop Burke’s words at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast:
The profound granting of an honorary doctorate at Notre Dame University to our President who is as aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda is a source of the gravest scandal. Catholic institutions cannot offer any platform to, let alone honor, those who teach and act publicly against the moral law. In a culture which embraces an agenda of death, Catholics and Catholic institutions are necessarily counter-cultural. If we as individuals or our Catholic institutions are not willing to accept the burdens and the suffering necessarily involved in calling our culture to reform, then we are not worthy of the name Catholic.
I agree with your take on the ineffectiveness of Alan Keyes’ inflammatory style, but I’m also disconcerted by an earlier post in which you refer to Obama as a thoughtful Christian. It seems that at best he could be called genuinely misguided. As one who “acts publicly against the moral law,” how can he be exemplary as a Christian in any sense?

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posted May 12, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Though I pray for it,I do have serious doubts that many hardline pro lifers would heed any call for common ground in the abortion issue. Too many see reducing the abortion rate as somehow a betrayal to the heart of the movement, ie banning all abortion.
Abortion will never truly be gone, unless we remove the reasons women (a) become pregnant when they do not wish to (b) the situation that makes them perceive themselves unable to care for a child. Unless the reasons are addressed (from financial to emotional etc) all the pro life movement could ever possibly do, is push abortion underground risking countless womens’ lives…abortion would not end.

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posted May 12, 2009 at 2:09 pm

While Obama obviously holds different views on abortion than you, he is not anti-life. I say this because he is working to change the reasons women seek abortion in the first place (often financial) and expanded the SCHIP bill so countless children will have health insurance.
And Bush..while very pro life—in principle— had an Administration that sanctioned torture.
Just because a person calls themselves “pro life” means squat unless their actions back it up.

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posted May 12, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Of course, it is so simple as to be self evident but should be said again. That by trying to hold us to unrealistic standards that they can’t even abide by themselves, Church opposition to condoms and other forms of contraception, actually promotes abortion, death and the spread of transmittable diseases. Prior to referring to what ever statistic in any sort of retort, go to the CDC and NIH websites to get the straight dope on this ‘life’ issue. Reducing the number of abortions by ceding on this side of the issue is something to consider.

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Your Name

posted May 12, 2009 at 5:06 pm

We are all facing an unplanned presidency, I wonder if his presidency could be aborted before he breaks this country, before completely destroys the economy, our morality, or our will, and ability, to survive as a proud nation? Perhaps he’ll continue on the path he’s on and we can impeach him…..probably not as we can look back at Clinton and his sexual lies and the second four years of Bush and see that most people are blind to most of what goes on outside their own little circle of family or friends or job.

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Your Name

posted May 12, 2009 at 5:49 pm

It is not about a bishop,the Catholic Church,or Notre dame. it is about murder of a child who is never given the chance to be what all you great people who write in these comments are. If a rose is a rose,and it starts from scratch so do we.
We have now far surpassed the Holocaust in abortions and having been around the clinics,most abortions are for convenince because somebody does not want the bother of a child but the sex act of proceation.
I am tired of all this hoopla,let God judge us.(As I am sure He is and has.)

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Little Bear

posted May 12, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Dear “Your Name”
And what about the women who bear the children? In your mind, all abortions are just for convenience—is that it? Wow!
You stated “let God judge us” Please remember that God does not judge as we do. Our judgements are so often full of vengence, anger, punishment, hatred for the other, and getting even. But the justice of God is nothing like that.
Did it ever occur to you that God possesses both feminine and masculine attributes—created both sexes and understands them both
perfectly. God does not value one over the other.

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posted May 16, 2009 at 11:08 am

First of all, Obama supported the killing of a child born live after a failed late term abortion while in the Illinois senate. He supported leaving a born alive child to literally die in a closet. Look it up. The man supports murder of children that are born – This is the kind of man that the American electorate were “fooled” into voting for….. If Obama wants to speak – let him speak – but, Notre Dame has no business giving this man an honorary degree. Any degree is an insult to the intelligence and morality of the American people. As to abortion, many of my friends had one when they were young…. it was a painful decision and one that no one would welcome. If the Catholic church believes that abortion is murder – they are entitled to their opinion – with the new technology enabling us to see infants moving in the womb – maybe they are more right than we know. The Catholic church is entitled to their opinion; the pro-abortion avocates are entitled to their opinion. But the Catholics should not honor a murderer of children and a pro abortion advocate with an honorary degree.

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posted May 16, 2009 at 7:19 pm

he started out his career in community organizing with the Catholic Church on issues pertaining to the steel workers losing their jobs.
Most Catholics really aren’t that riled up about abortion. We voted for Obama

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