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. gl, Pittsburgh

    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.

    What is with these pro-life nuts. The world do not stop becasue of you nuts. Every body have their own believe and your believe is not the voice for everyone. GET OVER YOURSELF!

    April 27, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  2. 0ld guy

    That away to go Mary Ann now we can add religious war to the conservative agenda, the group that looks for any way they can to beliitle and humiliate an elected President. Fortunately he is a bigger person than those seeking to offend.

    April 27, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  3. Ken in NC

    So in the spirit of savings, the fact that this lady will not be going to Notre Dame to get her award will generate a savings for someone. Probably for whoever was going to pay for her trip, lodging and meals.

    April 27, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  4. PSK

    It certainly is your RIGHT, Ms. Glendon, to be a no-show for your award- however I wonder if a commencement is the "right place" in which to make a stand against your perceived issues with Pres. Obama. I would like to ask you, however, how many honors and honorary degrees Mr. Bush received during his tenure? I would also like to ask you, Ms. Glendon, what CONCRETE steps Mr Bush took – even ONCE- that tried to reverse the abortion laws in this country? I never noticed that the Republican Party many any changes to abortion law, during their 8 YEARS in control of the WH- and at least some 6 years in control of the House/Senate. Sounds to me like you are a sad and sore loser looking for a platform in which to elevate yourself.

    April 27, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  5. elana

    If only the "rigidity" of the Catholic Church and Evangelistic Born Again Community could become "conscious" and realize that EVERY single human being who is born and walks their pathway to God every day of their life, could live peaceably and have no qualms of the opinions of others if they spoke their own truth and lived in the moment. The ego is a MASTER at turning the possibility of peace and acceptance into a "my way or the highway" mentality! How fortunate America really is now that we have a President who can speak his own truth, and reach out to EVERY human in the world in a desire to unify rather than to tear down. It is unfortunate this Professor who was to receive this award has chosen to listen to "ego" and refuse to "enjoy life and its accomplishments" on a day which will be filled with accomplishment of so many students who worked hard to earn their degree, and for a speech from a President, which will no doubt inspire many people that day!

    April 27, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  6. Henry

    This is really very troubling. I am truly saddened that Professor Glendon decided not to accept her award.

    Her award is for her contributions and Obama's is for his. Why must we have total refusal when we disagree.

    Shame shame

    April 27, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  7. Lloyd Joslin

    Sorry to hear that she is so shallow to think that everyone must think as she thinks. Certainly, she has her right to turn down the honor, but I think she shows her own small thinking & has disrespected Notre Dame in the process. LJ in NC

    April 27, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  8. Debra

    You conveniently left out that she was also U.S. ambassador to the Vatican under George W. Bush (who was one of the biggest death penalty politicians of our time...another issue which Catholics are also supposed to be opposed to).

    It's a shame that there are those who are trying to politicize what should just be a great time and memory for Notre Dame graduates of having the President of the United States speaking at their commencement...something that very few will ever experience.

    Another Bushee playing politics!

    April 27, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  9. phoenix86

    OMG!!!! I thought integrity had died at Harvard. At least Professor Glendon has the intelligence, honor and courage to stand up for what she believes in.

    I guess academia isn't quite dead yet.

    April 27, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  10. Lue Blackwell

    I wonder where Mary Ann was when all those Catholic priests were molesting young boys? What did she think about that? How can she equate Pres. Obama opinion about abortion in the same league with priests molesting young boys? Really, she does not need to be on the same stage with the President anyway--

    April 27, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  11. Oskar in SD

    Sounds to me like Notre Dame is not missing out is she doens't come there. Kudos to ND for bringing in Obama. it shows that despite fundamental misgivings, they are willing to be open to dialog rather tha the ussual head in the sand fundamentals.

    April 27, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  12. twiddly

    So, if say Berkeley or Boulder decided to have Glendon speak at their commencement, I guess we would all have to get up in arms about this horrible conservative being inappropriate.

    Hey Glendon, separation of church and state is a good thing! You're at Harvard, you should be smart enough to know better, but apparently even high IQ's can be blinded by blind faith.

    April 27, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  13. Leet

    An 'uncompromising opponent.' Who is really being 'uncompromising' here? One that believes in personal choice, not forcing tough personal decisions on people or the person that is believes in not only stripping personal freedom of choice away but also wanting the exclusion of those that don't agree with stripping away personal freedom of choice. Yeah, makes sense. Gotta love it, they'll go to bat for you all day long while your a fetus but once you get here its "keep your hand out of my piggy bank" and "pull yourself up by your bootstraps."

    April 27, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  14. Q

    This is so sad.

    What is really going on here? The church that sat back on its heals while their Bishops molested countless young boys for decades is in a frenzy because the POTUS (who happens to have a different social stance than them) is speaking at a Catholic University????

    Wow...talk about having your priorities in order!

    I mean, really... You can come up with a better excuse to hide the REAL reason.

    These folks are so transparent...and what makes it worse is they don't even realize how they look to the rest of the rational and sane world.

    April 27, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  15. Roy Arellano (San Antonio)

    This is out-right stupidity. Just stupid. Ignorant and stupid. Pres. G.W. Bush received one and was openly a user of the Death Penalty. This action, REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL BELIEVE, is also counter in EQUAL light to that of abortion in the eyes of the Catholic belief, yet no problem there.

    You say your Catholic (believing in Christ) yet you condone the death penalty; you say your anti-abortion; yet you pass judgement as Christ said we should not. God sees no crime or sin higher or lower, all sin is equal in the eyes of God.

    Let the acalades be based on meretorious and academia not on thoeological hipocricy and populous double standards.

    April 27, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  16. Julia

    Amazing. So much of these "protests" are part political motivation and personal angst at having this young African American man lead this country. To forego a personal nod for herself because the President of the United States will be honored is just preposterous. What a waste.

    April 27, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  17. so what

    Give the medal to someone else..........next
    She wants 5 minutes on Hannity the Hater show

    April 27, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  18. Doug from Allentown, PA

    "The conservative, pro-life academic ..."

    What? There is one of those?

    April 27, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  19. Billy Ray Valentine

    I wonder what Jesus Christ would do when he disagreed with someone?

    April 27, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  20. The Other Michael in Houston

    Now now Ms. Glendon, you are not following what the book says, love thy neighbor. Doesn't the book say something about being judgemental. And furthermore Ms. Glendon.......aww forget being nice, I hate you Jesus freaks. ALL OF YOU! You make me sick. You and others like you Ms. Glendon is the reason why I laugh at religion. Are you serious! What, Obama believes in your right as a woman to chose and that is so horrible????? Oh, but you will praise a man, the Pope, who is an admitted member of the Nazi party , yeah the same party that is responsible for killing millions of people. I wish I was one of your students so I could kick the crap out your hypocritical butt, you ignorant moron. This probably will not get posted but either way, I got it off my chest

    April 27, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  21. Mike in Ohio

    How is it so hard to respect your President? If I can respect Bush while he's in office, you can respect Obama.

    April 27, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  22. TTBALA

    All I would like to say to Ms Glendon and all the Catholic's who are shamelessly making these noises about the Presidents invitation to the University is stop being Hypocrites and let other people go on to their business, after the scandal about the Catholic Bishop's you do not have room to criticize anybody, it is OK to commit these atrocities but it is not OK to be a pro choice, shame on you.

    April 27, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  23. Diana NJ

    This turns my stomach.... Most of our Democratic Presidents and congressmen are PRO CHOICE... how does this make them PRO ABORTION.. If this Harvard professor feels so strongly she has made the right CHOICE for herself.., but she has slapped the President in the face..
    Only wish she would had stood up when the Government went to IRAQ and killed innocent people so Bush could have his revenge.

    April 27, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  24. red

    for the love of christ..give me a break

    he attented that school......................how dare ............

    April 27, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  25. georgia

    One wonders whether there would be such consternation over an invitation to a politician who supports the death penalty.

    April 27, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
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