Last weekend at the University of Notre Dame, many major media outlets highlighted a set of students who, deciding they could not tolerate a commencement address by the Vice President of the United States, walked out in protest. Given the controversy created by this group, a relative handful in the context of the larger graduating class, it is worth highlighting the focus of Vice President Mike Pence’s speech: life and liberty.
Pence praised the university for its commitment to those bedrock principles: “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.” He assured those assembled that they had an ally in Washington, evidenced by the Trump administration’s moves in recent months to stand for the sanctity of human life and religious freedom of all in the United States and abroad.
Particularly significant, the Vice President lauded Notre Dame as a beacon for the free expression and exchange of ideas in the midst of deteriorating respect for those values on campuses across the nation.
He lamented chilling speech codes, so-called safe zones, and other such policies. He said, “These all-too-common practices are destructive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge. And they are wholly outside the American tradition.”
In notable contrast to those colleges and universities, Pence stated, “Notre Dame is a campus where deliberation is welcomed — where opposing views are debated and where every speaker, no matter how unpopular or unfashionable, is afforded the right to air their views in the open for all to hear.” Though he did not address it, that contrast was likely accentuated for many listening on site after the staged walk-out.
To the thousands of students who remained, the Vice President challenged them to be leaders for liberty and to stay true to their faith and values as they take their next steps in life. In a concluding exhortation, he said that if they stay true to God and the good they have learned, “I know you will not only persevere, you will prevail. And you will lead your families, your professions, and our country to unimaginable heights.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: May 26, 2017