At least four pro-lifers disrupted President Barack Obama's commencement speech at Notre Dame with shouts like "stop killing babies," and "abortion is murder," but they were immediately escorted out by campus police and their voices silenced by the audience chanting Obama's campaign motto "Yes we can."
Wearing the blue robes of Notre Dame after receiving an honorary Law degree, President Obama was welcomed onto the stage with an ovation from 12,000 graduating seniors, master’s, doctoral and law graduates, their guests and staff.
Obama's remarks followed Fr. Jenkins' speech in which the battled President of the Catholic institution dramatically tried to justify the rightness of Notre Dame's decision to confer Obama with an honorary degree despite the fact that his views and political record on abortion are completely opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
“More than any problem in the arts or sciences, engineering or medicine, easing the hateful divisions between human beings is the supreme challenge of this age,” Father Jenkins said. “If we can solve this problem, we have a chance to come together and solve all the others.”
“Difference must be acknowledged, and in some cases even cherished,” Jenkins also said. But “we can persuade believers by appeal to both faith and reason. As we serve our country, we will be motivated by faith, but we cannot appeal only to faith. We must also engage in a dialogue that appeals to reason that all can accept.”
A few minutes into his speech, President Obama was briefly heckled by four pro-lifers positioned in different corners at the Joyce Center Arena.
The President was interrupted at least three times by the protesters, but they were finally silenced by the cheering crowd with chants of "Yes we can!" and "We are ND."
Two of the protesters removed from Joyce Center Arena were Joseph Landry and Andrew Beacham, both members of www.stopobamanotredame.com, the group of protesters organized by Randall Terry. But the others were unknown members of the crowd, possibly students.
Less stridently and mostly ignored by the press, about 100 students inside the arena had yellow crosses with baby feet drawn atop their mortar boards. Those students remained seated when Obama received his honorary degree and during the standing ovations the president received from the rest of the crowd.
Despite the interruption, President Obama continued with his speech calling for common ground.
Support for the president's speech and Fr. Jenkins' justifications for his controvertial invitation were strong among most in the audience.
According to Amy Welborn, who blogs on Catholic issues for Beliefnet, the largest religious portal, “I was as distressed as anyone by the rock-star reception by Obama, just as I would if Bush or any other politician were greeted in such a way at a Catholic institution. We've had enough problems with sucking up to civic authority over the last few dozen centuries, haven't we? It was creepy in a 'Justice Sunday' kind of way."
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