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While some of the protesters who have been arrested at Notre Dame have carried props such as baby dolls covered in mock blood, students both with ND Response and those who plan to attend but protest Mr. Obama’s speech say they will not use graphic images or be disruptive.

The White House said Mr. Obama never gave thought to forgoing the honorary degree as a middle-ground solution.

“The president intends to go to Notre Dame, speak, accept the degree, and come back to the White House,” Mr. Gibbs said.

But it’s clear they have been following the controversy to see how big it becomes. For now, they are convinced it’s more smoke than fire.

“I think there’s one group organizing a boycott and, as best I can understand it, there are 23 groups that have formed in support of the president’s invitation. The valedictorian is supportive of the invitation. Polling - public polling done by Pew - shows a majority of Catholics are in support of the invitation to speak at the commencement at Notre Dame, and that I think I saw a figure that 97 percent of the students are supportive,” Mr. Gibbs said.

The president’s appearance at Notre Dame comes in the middle of a heavy schedule of such addresses.

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama delivered his first commencement address as president, telling students at Arizona State University that they are coming of age in an era when the old measures of success no longer apply.

“Many of you have been taught to chase after the usual brass rings: being on this ‘who’s who’ list or that top 100 list; how much money you make and how big your corner office is; whether you have a fancy enough title or a nice enough car,” he said. “You can take that road - and it may work for some of you. But at this difficult time, let me suggest that such an approach won’t get you where you want to go.”

On Friday, Mr. Obama will speak at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he is expected to talk about the need to make sure U.S. military force is used only when necessary, that the troops are ready for those missions, and that they and their families are being treated properly by the government.

Notre Dame says more than 2,900 students will receive degrees Sunday.

Among the seven others receiving honorary degrees along with the president is Myles Brand, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and former president of Indiana University; Randall T. Shepard, chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court; and Cindy Parseghian, daughter-in-law of legendary Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian, who set up a foundation in his name to look for a cure to a rare, fatal genetic disorder that struck three of her four children.