The Rockford Files

Of Sycophants and Soliloquies

For those of us here in Rockford, Illinois, 200 miles (give or take) northwest of South Bend, Indiana, President Barack Obama’s commencement address at the University of Notre Dame on May 17 provoked a sense of déjà vu.  For it was on that same date six years ago that another commencement address on a controversial topic became national news and inspired a heated debate that dragged on for weeks on talk radio and the talking-head wrestling matches on FOX News and MSNBC.

There were some differences, of course.  The 2003 commencement address at Rockford College was not delivered by the President of the United States but by Chris Hedges, a correspondent for the New York Times, former divinity student and son of an ordained minister, and author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.  And with the likely exception of Rockford College President Paul Pribbenow, who invited Hedges and asked him to speak about war, no one expected Hedges’ talk to be controversial.

In contrast, no one knew for certain until the text of the Notre Dame address was made public an hour before he took the stage that President Obama would discuss abortion.  It was a reasonable assumption, of course, but largely because of the protests that had been launched back in January, when Notre Dame President John Jenkins first issued the invitation to the President.  Barack Obama is not the kind of man to...

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