April 27th, 2009
02:43 PM ET
11 years ago

Harvard professor backs out of honor, ceremony over Obama

A Harvard Law School professor has decided not to participate in Notre Dame's graduation ceremony because President Obama will be speaking at the event.

A Harvard Law School professor has decided not to participate in Notre Dame's graduation ceremony because President Obama will be speaking at the event.

(CNN) – Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon is turning down an award from the University of Notre Dame because she disagrees with the Catholic institution's decision to invite President Obama to deliver this year's commencement address.

The conservative, pro-life academic explained her decision not to attend the commencement ceremony and not to accept the Laetare Medal from the university in a letter to Notre Dame's president.

"I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree," Glendon wrote in the letter. She also said that she considered the decision to give Obama an honorary degree a violation of a request from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that Catholic institutions not honor individuals who act in defiance of the church's fundamental principles or give awards or platforms that suggest support for the actions of such individuals. Glendon, who described herself as a "longtime consultant" for the group of bishops, said the group's directive was "reasonable."

Glendon also said in the letter that she was concerned by the university's use of her planned involvement in the graduation ceremony as a way to balance Obama's appearance.

A commencement "is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame's decision . . . to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church's position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice," Glendon told Notre Dame's president.

After pointing out that Notre Dame's decision appeared to be setting an example that other Catholic institutions were following, the Harvard professor said it was "with great sadness" that she had decided she could not participate in the graduation ceremony nor accept the medal from the university.

Obama is also set to deliver the commencement address at Arizona State University and the U.S. Naval Academy.


Filed under: Abortion • President Obama
soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. wsharp

    Well, it is difficult to imagine who she thinks she is. Harvard is fine, she is not. Respect for the president is lacking in her attempt to show up the president and much more than half of the American public because of her beliefs which 50 years from now will be a joke. Religious beliefs in the past (and present) have cost millions of lives–dead cert killings nor pro life maybes. As a law professor she must be aware of this.

    April 27, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  2. C W

    Well, if Professor Mary Ann Glendon is a Catholic, I hope she's been not going to Mass to protest the Church's practice of promoting, transferring and in general, enabling the pedophilic practices of several of its priests.

    If she is attending Mass, I am very saddened by her decision to set the example of tolerating perverted and abhorrent behavior on the part of Catholic clergy that is in clear violation of the Church's teachings.

    April 27, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  3. RJ

    I applaud her for making a bold decision and following her morals without apology. However, if she's non-tenured, I bet she is gone by the end of this semester. Liberals won't stand a prof like her at a place like Harvard. I really hope I'm wrong.

    April 27, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  4. the watcher

    good for her. she'll take some heat maybe even lose her tenure, but it's great to see someone stand against the machine.

    April 27, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  5. Wisconsin Vet

    When did so many people become God? Thay pass judgement on what is the divine plan and who is what.

    This is a prime example of religion and no faith.

    April 27, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  6. boadicea

    Apparently, academic freedom and respect for other views only means that Prof Glendon wants hers protected.

    April 27, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  7. Notre Dame and the Church have lost their way

    As a devout catholic I am dismayed over Notre Dame's decision. The University of Notre Dame, and much of he Catholic and other Christian Churches in the US, have lost their way. No disrespect to Mr obama, but inviting him is an affront to Catholic teaching and Church law. It is shameful and a dark day for ND.

    April 27, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  8. tom

    what a big baby. he's the president of the united states. maybe it's because the media wasn't paying attention to such stories before, but i never remember hearing about liberals turning down honors because george bush would be receiving similar recognition. people disagree about issues, it's no reason to take your ball and go home.

    April 27, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  9. Lisa B

    Why are people taking everything so personal . It is really starting to get ridiculous. People have their own beliefs in life. No one is ever going to agree with everything someone does. I think this is pure childish and if that's how she feels, than she's not mature enough to deserve it . She is showing her ignorance and who cares if she doesn't accept this award. She is definitely not hurting the President. He will go on with business as usual

    April 27, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  10. Patty

    Not worth discussing.

    April 27, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  11. Roger

    Send Professor Glendon to Iran or perhaps Pakistan where she can find herself a nice Taliban who will protect her from the worldly issues of today...this is an example of an extremist person that is a US citizen who is allowed to be a "Harvard professor"....of course she is a conservative pro-life republican...

    April 27, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  12. ash

    Quite blatantly, this is getting ridiculous. I find all of these supposed "pro-life" excuses as racist, unnecessary, and just a political jab at our new president. So, must ALL Catholic universities start background checking the social positions of our commencement speakers? I attend Villanova, and I certainly do not think so.

    April 27, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  13. ch

    Spare me – Too bad like other right wingers she's not as concerned about a child as she is about an unborn fetus.

    If the GOP and their followers (who are diminishing in numbers!) really care about life then they need to start caring about the health, education and welfare that should be provided for every child born in the US, regardless of their parent's income.

    April 27, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  14. Heroes

    Its amazing that someone with a degree from Harvard (Glendon, not Obama) could be so naive and self-defeating. When will Catholics finally get it that provision of social services and education (things Obama wants to do) are more effective than legislation (things conservatives want to do despite the fact that it cause more problems than it creates). This is easily substantiated with research. Glendon is just engaging in another petty display like the one by Sarah Palin. BTW, if we listened to "pro-life" (a term that is a joke when applied to most of the people the conservatives want to elect) advocates, Palin would be one heartbeat away from being President. I can't even imagine how many people would die from her gross ineptness. There may be a lot of valid issues to take with Obama, but this isn't one of them. The sooner these narrow-minded conservatives begin seeing the forest and not the tree, the sooner we will seriously address the abortion issue. As much as i hate to say it, it is people like Glendon that make Christianity so unappealing to others. As far as Catholicism, I think Notre Dame has a better grasp on the Church's teachings than does Glendon.

    April 27, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  15. Christians can learn from Islam and Muslims

    If catholics and christians everywhere in this country were as devout in their religions as the Muslims are in their's this country would look a lot different to the world and would be a far better place. We have lost many of the beliefs and principles upon which this country was founded – "One nation, Under God...."

    April 27, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  16. maf

    Unbelievable! Honorary degrees are given to all manner of individuals. President Obama is just that, the PRESIDENT!!!
    You should be so honoured to be included in the same ceremony.

    GET OVER YOURSELF!!!

    April 27, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  17. rafael

    Obama is promoting policies to reduce the number of abortions by supporting women who choose to keep the baby, by advancing family planning and sex education, and by promoting adoption. In contrast, the number of abortions increased under Bush's head-in-the-sand abstinence only policy.

    So, which president is acting in defiance of the church's goals? The one who is acting to reduce abortions, or the one who increased them? Get over yourself, Glendon (and Catholics everywhere).

    April 27, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  18. virginia nielsen

    I can't believe that a Harvard professor said something like that ... we're in 2009 and Obama is not pro-abortion, he is pro-choice and he is a very good exemple : the same wife for 17 years ,very good father and very good husband. Sometimes I think that he is more conservative in family values than a lot of "conservatives" that I know. What a shame !!!

    April 27, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  19. Elliott

    Yeah...JUDGE OTHERS – That's really in line with the whole Jesus thing isn't it......

    April 27, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  20. bob in LA

    Professor Glendon is using the wrong venue to stage her protest.
    Universities are by definition a place to learn abd exchange ideals of different views.
    If the President was scheduled to present her withthe medal, she would have reason to pass onthe honor. But to say she disagrees with his views and therefore won't accept it from the institution suggests she needs to quit her job at Harvard and move out of Boston. Harvard beng a liberal bastion and Boston having the same reputation..
    If you are fighting for a belief, it should be at the proper forum- this isn't it. It appears she should not be given an award if as a professor she does not realize that!

    April 27, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  21. Reality Check

    Good for her! It is important to stand by your convictions! I find it quite arrogant of the leaders of Notre Dame University to not follow their core values.

    April 27, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  22. Avi Shlomo

    How about you should decline to receive federalk grants and perhaps you can apply to the so called Holey See

    April 27, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  23. Butch

    Good for Ms. Glendon. She is right on. Conservatives need more people like Ms. Glendon who are willing to stand up and speak the truth instead of sucking up to everyone for political points.

    Speaking of sucking up, Notre Dame seems to be pandering for popularity. Why else would one invite the Chief Narcissist to campus? In place of a honorary degree, why not just give him a mirror...so he can admire himself?

    April 27, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  24. Sean

    I respect her decision and it comes no surprise to me.... being a conservative herself, this is how she should behave. Though I don't agree with her viewpoint.

    April 27, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  25. thanks, but no thanks

    A commencement "is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame's decision . . . to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church's position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice," Glendon told Notre Dame's president.
    The question l have for Mary Ann Glendon is: Does she agree with thought dissent in her auditorium, or is it black and white? This is exactly the reason that Catholic Church can not win the argument on abortion. For someone close minded it is not even an argument. How about education on condom use? How about having the catholic priest getting married and have family? How about reducing poverty by increasing education? All those issues should not be seen as separated from the abortion. Now, anyone will ask how is it having priests married has anything to do with abortion. When you go to church and talk about everyday issues, do you ask yourself what does this guy know about life??? The only way reducing abortion is by improving the life of our citizens. Then, this might be a push for some conservatives....

    April 27, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
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