Vice President Mike Pence delivered a commencement address at Notre Dame Saturday, and his main message was… oh, who am I kidding. No one cares what he said since Donald Trump will probably contradict it tomorrow anyway. The most memorable part of the event was watching more than 100 students walk out on him in protest.
Because even at a Catholic school, there are students who understand the kind of damage he caused while serving as Governor and continues to cause, now, as Trump’s bridge to the conservative movement and a complicit force in Trump’s incompetent administration.
Bryan Ricketts, who served as Notre Dame’s student body president from 2015-16 and graduated Sunday with a dual-degree in political science and chemical engineering, was one of the leaders [of the student group WeStaNDFor, which organized the protest]. Ricketts told IndyStar that many of his peers were “upset and hurt” by the school’s decision to invite Pence because his “policies have impacted the humanity of certain graduates.”
WeStaNDFor explained in a release that they are primarily protesting Pence’s opposition to gay rights, his attempts as governor to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling in Indiana, his support of President Donald Trump’s immigration travel ban, and his opposition to sanctuary cities that do not enforce federal immigration laws.
They did it in a smart, effective way, too. They didn’t stop Pence from speaking. They didn’t drown him out with noise. They just turned their backs on him just like he turned his back on minority groups and other communities that could use his help. At least they didn’t take away his rights.
Even the valedictorian, C.J. Pine, offered a rebuke to Pence’s beliefs by talking about the work he’s done with Syrian refugees:
Standing feet away from Pence, [Pine] told anecdotes of experiences with Syrian refugees, called for freedom of religion and equal rights. He organized the student advocacy group Solidarity with Syria and an awareness campaign directed to counter Islamophobia on campus.
“If we are going to build walls against American students and international students, then I am skewered on the fence,” he said.
Before conservatives complain about disrespect, keep in mind that there were also protests when President Obama gave a commencement address in 2009. Obama, after all, respected women enough to say they ought to be able to choose what they do with their bodies.
Pence, at least, didn’t complain about it. He didn’t acknowledge the protesters at all (much less congratulate them for exercising their free speech rights).
He robotically continued his speech as if nothing was happening around him… much like he does while serving as VP.
Pence told them to “Be exceptional from this day forth.” And those students showed their classmates how to do it. Which is good since it’s not like Pence was going to be the role model.