The commencement speaker at my daughter's graduation from Boston College a few years ago was Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. For weeks prior to the event, controversy raged across the campus. On the appointed day, much to our relief, there was little evidence of the same. Of course, some of the faculty did stand and give her their backs to her while she spoke. This feeble and ill-mannered demonstration, however, was more than countered by the warm welcome and rousing response of the crowd.
This week at Notre Dame, the other side was afforded a similar treatment. Despite the attendant hoopla, when the President spoke, he was welcomed heartily. This was as it should be. I do not agree with the man on many things, but I do believe that as a guest of the school, he was due the hospitality of the entire place. There is never an excuse for bad manners... almost never anyway.
It stikes me that these people, whether the professors at BC or the odd heckler at Notre Dame, share in the notion that their views trump those of the assembled multitudes. Graduation is not about the speaker, or the administration, or even them. Graduation is a celebration of the hard work of students and parents, a milestone in the development of young minds. Who are they to impose their will?
The beef, if any, is not with the speaker but with those who invited him or her. The speaker also bears the burden of not prosletyzing about his or her own brand of politics. In my experience, most are cognizant of the same and present a pretty catholic message. Anyway, we have reached a pretty sad state of affairs when we cannot listen to each other, when we cannot at least pretend to be gracious. Upshot: save your tantrums for your parents or spouses. You have no right to inflict them on us. There is a time and a place for disagreements of all stripes. Graduation is not it.