Notre Dame University may not extend an invitation to President-elect Donald Trump to this year’s graduation, a move that would break with a decades-long tradition of inviting presidents in their first year to deliver the main commencement address at the South Bend campus.
University President John Jenkins said the 2009 commencement featuring President Obama was a “political circus” that he is loath to repeat at this year’s ceremony.
“I do think the elected leader of the nation should be listened to. And it would be good to have that person on the campus — whoever they are, whatever their views,” Mr. Jenkins told The Observer, the student-run publication of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s. “At the same time, the 2009 Commencement was a bit of a political circus, and I think I’m conscious that that day is for graduates and their parents — and I don’t want to make the focus something else.”
“My concern a little bit is that, should the new president come, it may be even more of a circus,” he added.
Conservative cardinals and bishops opposed the invitation of Mr. Obama at the time, citing his views on abortion which run contrary to church teaching. Prominent alumni also lobbied the school to disinvite the president.
Five other presidents have delivered the main commencement address at Notre Dame: Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Former President Bill Clinton, who supports abortion rights, was not invited to speak upon taking office.
Notre Dame has been more willing to host pro-choice politicians of late. Earlier this year, the school awarded the prestigious Laetare Medal to Vice President Joseph Biden, who favors legalized abortion but is personally opposed to the procedure. The medal was also given to former Speaker of the House John Boehner, who is pro-life.
Catholics backed Mr. Trump in the general election by a 52 to 45 percent margin over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, according to exit polls.
Mr. Trump previously supported abortion rights as a businessman, but campaigned for president on a pro-life platform and has promised to nominate pro-life judges to the Supreme Court.
Mr. Jenkins has expressed disapproval with the president-elect’s stance on immigration.
Six days after the general election, he reassured undocumented students that Notre Dame would continue to support them, even if Mr. Trump rescinds the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program.
An executive order signed by Mr. Obama in 2012, DACA permits certain undocumented immigrants who arrived as children to receive work permits and in some cases financial aid to attend college.
Mr. Trump promised to rescind all of the president’s unconstitutional executive orders on day one of his presidency. On the campaign trail, he called DACA “one of the most unconstitutional actions ever undertaken by a President.”
“If there should be an effort to do that, we would do everything we can to fight that, whatever way we can,” Mr. Jenkins told The Observer. “Not only for these young people who are Notre Dame students, but for the good of the nation.”
Mr. Jenkins said a commencement speaker will be chosen during the spring term.