May 17th, 2009
03:31 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama: 'Each side will continue to make its case' on abortion


SOUTH BEND, Indiana (CNN) - President Barack Obama delved into the charged abortion debate in a controversial Notre Dame commencement address Sunday, urging civility and a search for common ground on perhaps the most divisive issue in American politics.

Read: Obama's remarks at Notre Dame

Addressing a sharply divided audience at the storied Catholic university, Obama nevertheless conceded that no matter how much Americans "may want to fudge it ... at some level the views of the two camps are irreconcilable."

"Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction," he said. "But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature."

The commencement ceremony was boycotted by a number of graduates dismayed by the university's decision both to tap Obama as its commencement speaker and to give him an honorary degree. The president is a supporter of abortion rights and federally-funded embryonic stem-cell research - positions that are anathema to traditional Catholic teachings.

Some graduates attended the ceremony, but expressed their disapproval by donning a mortar board marked with a cross and the outline of an infant's footprints. Others countered by wearing mortarboards adorned with an Obama campaign symbol.

Twenty-seven people were arrested prior to Obama's speech, according to a spokeswoman for the St. Joseph County, Indiana, jail. Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff identified as "Roe" in the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, was among those arrested.

But inside, several hecklers who interrupted the start of Obama's speech were loudly booed by the audience.

Full story


Filed under: Abortion • President Obama
soundoff (182 Responses)
  1. Gloria Ramirez

    In the end it does not so much matter what he said - what I hear is the basic rights of infants in the womb -( they were not "soldiers "or any adult in an unfortuanate circumstance) - but infants killed in abortions or in Human Embryonic experimentation– they had nor have NO advocate for the basic civil right to life from our present president.

    May 17, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  2. Lorenzo Clemons

    How many football and basketball players believe the same as Obama. So should ND protest and refuse to let them play for the Golden Dome? I am sure that would be the accepted exception. Heaven forbid we give up the games and "touchdown Jesus" for a simple thing like Christian Values ", Thanks President Obama for being gracious in the face of protest.

    May 17, 2009 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  3. John

    I watched the speech, and I agree with comments of several others about your coverage. You call that a "divided audience" but what I saw was one cheering standing ovation after another – and audience anger at the two jerks that tried to interrupt the President's speech.

    I thought President Obama and Father Jenkins both gave wonderful speeches – their critics were way out of their league today! Unifying speeches that encourage dialogue among those who disagree will always trump one-issue "I'm so sure I'm right I won't even listen to you" diatribes. Those Catholics – not a majority of Catholics, even among the bishops, apparently – who tried to keep Obama from speaking only hurt their church and their own political cause.

    May 17, 2009 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  4. Flo

    I really enjoyed President Obama's speech and wish many of the protesters would stop and listen and may be learn something about Obama's position instead of pre judging. The best lesson these graduates could get of the speech is that in life you will meet people you don't agree with but that does not mean you should not engage in conversation..............These protesters showed a lack of regard for dialogue and a poverty of knowledge.

    May 17, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  5. tisha

    What I never will understand is the same people who protest abortion are the same ones that. 1. Stand for smaller government, but they want the government to tell a women what she can do with her body. 2. Are against most social programs that a mother who can't afford her children would use. To me it's very simple you don't like abortion and think it's wrong then don't get one. Ur against gay marriage don't marry a gay person. I mind my own business cause I have my own problems. If everyone lived by this motto I think the world would indeed be a better place.

    May 17, 2009 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  6. Regina Powell

    I apologize for the misspelling in my blog regarding the speech
    given by President Obama for the Notre Dame graduates! I'm normal-
    ly a good speller. This is what you get, when you are in a hurry!

    Thank you, for your forebearence......

    May 17, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  7. Peter E

    I really don't think it's an appropriate commencement speech, but I guess he had no choice. Obama knew that neither the university, nor the media will listen to anything in the speech until he addresses the one controversy the media was shoving down people's throats about this commencement.

    May 17, 2009 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  8. DL

    I'd just like to say "amen" to arthur. Right to life includes MUCH more than a 9 month commitment. You can't force those views and yet take no responsibility for people who desperately need health care, food, and basic needs. When you address those issues, I'll gladly be right to life. This is precisely why I can never be a Republican. This entire policy is a contradiction of itself.

    May 17, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  9. teacher

    We have to put up with some Republicans going off half-cocked. Now a few Catholics think they speak for all Americans. What next? I am all for freedom of speech and the rights of people, but noone has the right to force their one-sided closed minded views on all the rest of us. State your objection and be done with it. We should also have the right to free choice, whether it be our political stance or religious beliefs. Thank God that America is a country where we have these rights – all Americans have these rights, not just Catholics.

    May 17, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  10. Dee, NJ

    Pres "O", Women not childern or a MAN on get a vote! ND is a school, NOT the Vatican! Again, Thank You!

    May 17, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  11. Laura in Connecticut

    The biggest protest today was that President Obama was given a degree from the university...can you honestly tell me that EVERY student who received a degree from Notre Dame is anti abortion....I didn't think so, therefore this should not be the important subject of this graduation. The determination of the President of the United States and the President of the university to promote dialogue and encourage a better way to bring this Country together is the idea that got across. Congratulations to the students and their families.

    May 17, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  12. Mel of Alexandria

    Let the conversation go on, but one thing for sure, freedom of choice is a gift from our Creator and no state or church can take that away.

    May 17, 2009 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  13. G

    A fetus has a separate heart beat. A fetus has separate DNA.
    Scientifically speaking it is a separate organism that is dependant on mom as the host. I don't know if abortion should be outlawed but maybe we could all agree that if the baby can be taken out of the mother safely and put in an incubator and survive then mom has the right to do this and society should make sure the child is taken care of. Even some of my most liberal friends get pregnant and they talk about the "baby" on the ultra sound. They find out the sex and name him/her. If they have a miscarriage they morn. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, clearly a fetus is not just another organ in mom's body. An appendix doesn't have it's own DNA, sex, name etc. and I don't really know anyone who has morned the loss of their appendix. Late term abortion maybe one of the compromises that both sides can agree on.

    May 17, 2009 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  14. Greg

    Another bunch of religious hypocrites selectively choosing policies that our against their religion to criticize a president they don't like. Notre Dame would have no commencement speakers if they applied catholic values across the board, including most Catholic priests.

    May 17, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  15. AP in Illinois

    The selfish pro-lifers put their own interests over the Notre Dame graduates. You should all be ashamed of yourselves for making a spectacle of Notre Dame graduation. A graduation ceremony is not for making political statements.

    May 17, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  16. Chris

    How can a President, any President, stand up and give permission to kill another American? Think about it folks. Is this what we want from our leader?

    May 17, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  17. Willy Brown

    The resident of Kenya gets a GED. Change, Hope, bull crap....

    May 17, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  18. Millie McGuire

    Obama's speech was his purest form of two-faced idiocy. He speechifies brilliantly and then works his evil ways in midnight meetings and executive orders which do not correlate at all to what he says. He should remember his own words about understanding all sides of an issue when it comes to support for Israel, also.

    May 17, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  19. Mark

    what don't people get?? it's such BASIC differences.

    Pro-choice people disagree with idiots like the Catholic bishop who think's "obama doesn't value the right of human life".

    HELLO..
    before a baby is delivered, it's NOT a HUMAN life.
    it's a FETUS. a FETUS is not a HUMAN.

    that's the fundamental debate and we'll never agree.
    get a life and get on with it.

    May 17, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  20. Dustin

    Every president since Eisenhower has been invited to speak at Notre Dame's commencement. I seem to recall that Bill Clinton was pro-choice. Where was all of this outrage when he was invited to speak? If there was no objection then, it logically follows that the current protests are lies. Obviously the current protests have nothing to do with abortion and everything to do with Obama. It's just people who want to protest his presidency, for whatever reason, and they're using abortion as an excuse. This is truly shameful, because whichever side of the abortion issue you are on, it is far too serious an issue to be made light of. It's really too bad that people are being dishonest about their reasons for protest. When people use their first amendment rights to spread lies and discord, it's an insult to the people who fought for and founded our country.

    May 17, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  21. Arlene, Roselle, Illinois

    Has the Catholics cleaned up the pedofie priest situation yet?

    May 17, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  22. Sylvana in Texas

    What an inspirational and eloquent speech. The class of 2009 of Notre Dame was truly fortunate to have had such a gifted speaker. Obama speaks with intelligence and conviction. He speaks from the heart and from his core principles. His message is one that speaks to every graduating class this year. I believe his words touched many graduates today. Our country has a true leader.

    May 17, 2009 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  23. Karen - Missouri

    So here we have Harvard graduates acting like children. I am disappointed in those who will allow Bush/Cheney murders in wars but disallow Obama being the President with respect for all points of view. And, due to all the trouble on college campuses these days, for students' protections...protesters shouldn't haven't been allowed on campus grounds anyway. The media has also overblown the story...as usual. Notre Dame invited Obama, so protest the school administration, not the President of the United States. Dumb...glad my degree didn't come from Notre Dame

    May 17, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  24. LADY D

    Awesome and well said Mr. President. Great job.

    May 17, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  25. Royster

    It is a shame that the good students of Notre Dame were USED by the far right of the GOP in their little hate-campaign against Obama. C'mon, Alan Keyes?? How right wing can you get? This political bimbo only shows up when the far far right surfaces. This was more a cse of political science class at N.D. than anything else.....a nice lesson in how a political party can twist a message and try and turn an honorable occasion into a circus that not only makes the GOP look bad, it also makes the Catholic church look bad. I AM a
    Catholic, and totally agree with Obama that the sides (esp the right) is demonizing the other side. It is funny we never see Notre Dame have demonstrations against anything else! All of the sudden they are conscious of their religion? I don't think so......

    May 17, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
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