The irony was not hard to miss on Sunday when Vice President Mike Pence gave the commencement address at Notre Dame.
His speech included calling Notre Dame a “vanguard of freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas.” He went on to say, “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.”
Ha. Wrong, Mr. Pence. You are wrong. And honestly, you should have known better.
Some Notre Dame grads, about 100 of the nearly 3,200, decided that the best, most effective way to protest Pence’s politics, and that his boss is President Donald Trump, was to walk out before he spoke. Yep. As the vice president of the United States stepped to the podium, some students left. They ran away.
Silly, right? That’s really the best these clowns could come up with to show they disagree with Pence? Run away? Not by getting involved in their community. Not by standing behind a candidate. Not by urging people to get involved in politics and understanding the issues. Not by seeking to run for office. None of that, because, quite simply, it requires a little work and thought. Now, getting up and walking away, refusing to listen, that’s a bit easier and requires no work, no thought. No thinking at all, in fact.
Here’s the conversation as these students pondered how to show Pence they don’t like him or his politics and were so very upset he was invited to be the guest speaker:
“What should we do? What do you think?”
“I know. Let’s not listen to what he has to say.”
“Yeah, we can plug our ears.”
“We can run away.”
“We can turn our backs.”
“Let’s do it!”
Pence, being the gentleman, didn’t react to the walkout.
“The increasing intolerance and suppression of the time-honored tradition of free expression on our campuses jeopardizes the liberties of every American,” he said. “This should not and must not be met with silence.”
These students might have learned something from him. Too bad they didn’t hear him.
Sad. These are graduates of one of our finest universities. You think they would be embarrassed, but, not surprisingly, were actually quite proud of themselves for taking what amounts to childish actions and a temper tantrum, something you would expect of an angry second-grader: Stamp their feet and put their hands over their ears.
Clearly, in their years at Notre Dame, they learned nothing of showing basic respect, even to others you don’t agree with. And, of course, you can already hear someone arguing, “Well, Trump is rude to people. His policies are bad. He’s not always polite, so we won’t be polite, either.”
Good point. You win the argument.
These grads, if they really had any spine, would have refused to attend the graduation if they were all that offended by Mr. Pence. If they disagreed so strongly with his policies, they could have stayed home out of respect for their classmates and had their diploma mailed to them. They were, of course, willing to sit in on the part of the graduation they liked and made them feel good and did not require them to listen to someone who didn’t think like they do.
One might consider that perhaps they could have sat in silence and listened to his words, considered what he had to say. Sadly, some people are simply so closed-minded and narrow in their views, they can’t stand even listening to someone who has another viewpoint. Funny that the so-called opened-minded college grads, accepting of everyone and everything, can’t tolerate a short speech from the vice president.
The good thing about this is, the other 3,100 graduates showed basic respect, sat, listened and politely applauded when Pence was done. The protesters were, fortunately in this case, a few knuckleheads.
Ironically, too, Notre Dame University President the Rev. John I. Jenkins had this to say at the commencement ceremony: “Too often, the love that fires our passion is twisted into a hatred for those who disagree. At Notre Dame, we must strive for something higher. We must speak the truth we know and challenge the injustice we see. But we also must listen to those who disagree, care for the bonds that join us together and find ways to build a society where all flourish.”
That sounds reasonable, logical and doable.
Notre Dame university officials, frankly, should be embarrassed by the actions of these students. And, they should apologize. Perhaps, at least, they could have their students pass a course in common courtesy to take out into the real world. They have much to learn.