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Thursday, March 26, 2009



Here's a message just released by Notre Dame:

Dear Members of the Notre Dame Community, and Esteemed Friends,

We are proud to announce that Notre Dame has invited President Barack Obama to give this year’s commencement address. Although President Obama differs with members of our community on some issues, the University’s commitment to diversity and dialogue means that we welcome speakers who can share different perspectives with our students. Given the importance that the University places on honoring diverse points of view, we are also proud to announce that we have taken the unprecedented step of lining up the following commencement speakers for the next five years:

1. 2010 -- Bernie Madoff and Jeff Skilling, who will give a joint address on “Business Ethics as an Embodiment of Catholic Social Teaching,” a theme which is more important than ever in these challenging economic times. Mr. Madoff and Mr. Skilling will share their extensive business experience which they gained, respectively, as a personal investment advisor and as an executive at Enron Corporation. Due to unavoidable circumstances, Mr. Madoff and Mr. Skilling will be unable to travel to South Bend for the address, but will appear by videoconference by special arrangement with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Some members of the Notre Dame community have expressed misgivings about this invitation, but we stress the importance of keeping an open mind to other, enriching points of view.

2. 2011 -- The Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, who will speak on “The Place of Catholics in American Society.” Unfortunately, there has always been a great deal of misunderstanding between this University and the KKK. At times, Notre Dame has failed to be as receptive as it could have been to the Klan’s diverse point of view, given unfortunate incidents in which members of our football team have disrupted Klan rallies in South Bend and beaten up its members. Other members of our community have sometimes reacted emotionally to the Klan’s advocacy of expelling the Catholic faith from these shores, without taking the time to understand their unique and diverse point of view. We look forward to the Grand Wizard’s visit, and hope it will be an occasion of understanding and mutual forgiveness.

3. 2012 – Hu Jintao, Paramount Leader of the People’s Republic of China, who give an address on “The Meaning of Family Life,” and how China’s innovative family policies hold many lessons for us. As the place of family holds an important place in our Catholic faith, we eagerly anticipate learning from and dialoguing with Premier Jintao.

4. 2013 – Christopher Hitchens, renowned English author, who will give an address on “The Proper Place of Religious Faith in Society,” and will make the case that we are better off without it. Mr. Hitchens will also encourage Catholics to engage in the sort of beneficial self-examination that we all too often avoid, and will use our sometimes uncritical admiration for Blessed Mother Teresa as a case in point, explaining why he "wishes there really was a Hell for the b**ch to go to." We look forward to learning from Mr. Hitchens about the virtues of the New Atheism.

5. 2014 – Kim Jong-Il, who will give an address on “Religious Liberty in the 21st Century.” Mr. Jong-Il, the Dear Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic Korea, will share his unique perspective on religious liberty with our graduates. Religious liberty has always been an important theme in American Catholic life, and we look forward to the opportunity to dialogue with the Dear Leader. Some of the more excitable members of our community have expressed a distressingly close-minded attitude towards the Dear Leader’s visit to Our Lady’s University, merely because any North Koreans who are found to be practicing the Catholic faith are subject to summary execution. We urge all members of our community to reflect on the need for greater tolerance of all points of view (except, of course, for our own).

Yours in Christ,

The University of Notre Dame

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