Washington D.C., May 11, 2021 / 16:00 pm
In a break with recent tradition, President Joe Biden will not be delivering the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame this year - although he was invited by the university to do so.
On Tuesday, the university announced that its May 23 commencement speaker will be Jimmy Dunne, a finance executive and trustee of the university. During the last three presidential administrations, U.S. presidents or vice presidents have addressed the university's commencement in their first year in office, but that trend will not continue in 2021.
Although a university spokesman told CNA that, as a policy, “we do not discuss who may or may not have been approached to address our graduates,” sources from the White House confirmed to CNA that Biden had indeed been invited by the university but could not attend due to scheduling.
The White House expressed its hope that Biden would appear at a future commencement ceremony of the university, during his first term.
U.S. presidents have customarily been invited to address graduates at Notre Dame’s commencement ceremonies. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama addressed the university’s commencement in their first year in office, while other presidents have appeared later on in their presidential terms.
In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence - a Catholic who now identifies as simply a “Christian” - addressed Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony. The university would not say if it invited President Trump to speak.
“Neither President Trump nor President Clinton, we understand, was invited,” stated an open letter to Fr. Jenkins asking him not to invite Biden. The letter, signed by more than 4,300 “members of the Notre Dame community,” cited Biden’s “pro-abortion and anti-religious liberty agenda” as reasons not to invite him to address the commencement.
A university spokesman said on Tuesday, “While Notre Dame has had more presidents serve as commencement speakers than any university other than the military academies, we have not always hosted a president in his first year in office--or at all."