By Kathleen Gilbert

NOTRE DAME, Indiana, April 7, 2009 ( – has obtained a copy of the talking points distributed by the University of Notre Dame to its Board of Trustees to respond to the rash of criticism the school faces from Catholic bishops, leaders, laypeople, and Notre Dame alumni concerning its invitation of President Obama to be this year’s commencement speaker.

An outcry erupted immediately after the school announced, and the White House accepted, an invitation to President Obama to offer the commencement address and receive an honorary law degree May 17 (To sign a petition against the invitation, go to:

The talking points are as follows:

– Presidents from both parties have come to Notre Dame for decades to speak to our graduates.  Barack Obama will be the sixth President to speak at commencement, and the ninth to receive an honorary degree from the University.

– It’s a rare thing to be able to offer your graduates a commencement address from one of the most influential figures in the world – especially as they’re entering that world hoping to make it better.

– We think a visit from the President will help inspire our graduates to be active citizens – whether they agree with his politics or not.

– We knew there would be some controversy over this choice.  Frankly, I was impressed that Fr. Jenkins invited him; he’s facing some criticism for this.  And I admire President Obama for accepting.  It shows he respects his audience.

– But there shouldn’t be any confusion about the honorary degree.  We’re honoring him as the sitting president of the United States…for his historic election, for fighting poverty, expanding health care, improving schools, seeking peace, breaking barriers of race.

– These issues are dear to the heart of Catholics and the president has elevated them, and we honor that.

– We are aware of the discussion surrounding the bishops’ document, Catholics in Political Life.  The University took this document into full consideration.  We believe it allows those non-Catholics to be invited to give their views on important issues.

– We have said from the start, that this invitation does not mean we agree with all positions the President has taken.  We do not condone the President’s positions on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.  We have crucial differences with him on issues of protecting human life.  Fr. Jenkins made that clear.

– But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t invite him to Notre Dame.  We can never change the President’s views unless he listens to us.  And how can we expect him to listen to us if we won’t listen to him?

– And President Obama won’t be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal.

– We think having the President come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the President and for the causes we care about.

See related coverage:

Notre Dame’s Bishop Will Not Attend Obama-Honoring Graduation, Criticizes University’s Decision

Notre Dame Faces Groundswell of Outrage after Announcing Plan to Honor Obama

Notre Dame President: School “Honored” by Obama’s Acceptance to Speak and Receive Honorary Degree

Catholic Notre Dame University to Give Obama Honorary Degree on May 17, Against USCCB Policy


Commenting Guidelines
LifeSiteNews welcomes thoughtful, respectful comments that add useful information or insights. Demeaning, hostile or propagandistic comments, and streams not related to the storyline, will be removed.

LSN commenting is not for frequent personal blogging, on-going debates or theological or other disputes between commenters.

Multiple comments from one person under a story are discouraged (suggested maximum of three). Capitalized sentences or comments will be removed (Internet shouting).

LifeSiteNews gives priority to pro-life, pro-family commenters and reserves the right to edit or remove comments.

Comments under LifeSiteNews stories do not necessarily represent the views of LifeSiteNews.