Vice President Pence gives commencement speech at Notre Dame, dozens walk out

Cheryl Sanders
June 2, 2017

More than 100 students walked out quietly to some brief cheers and boos.

Pence has a record as the former IN governor, and prior to that as an IN congressional representative, of social conservatism and opposition to abortion rights and LGBT rights.

Pence didn't directly comment on the walkout, but he applauded Notre Dame for its "atmosphere of civility and open debate". Once they left the stadium, they were unable to re-enter.

They exited the auditorium wearing their graduation gowns and hats in a planned protest authorities were aware of, but did nothing to prevent.

A group of Fighting Irish graduates stood up and began to walk out as soon as Pence began speaking. But not all graduates were enthusiastic about the former governor's presence at the ceremony. "I think it's disrespectful to the LGBT students to invite someone with such bigoted beliefs".

Dimaro's parents too walked out with her.

"It's kind of embarrassing to see them doing that". "Notre Dame has the right to invite whomever".

As The Indy Star reported, the students, some of whom were wrapped in rainbow colored flags or bore phrases of protest on their graduation caps, later gathered outside the arena to celebrate their graduation.

Pence didn't acknowledge the walkout outright, but continued to stand up for students expressing themselves on college campuses.

The organizers of this year's historic Women's March also took to Twitter to congratulate the protesters. About 300 people chanted: "Love, not hate, makes America great".

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"Just as Notre Dame has stood strong to protect its religious liberty, I'm proud that this president just took steps to ensure that this university and the Little Sisters of the Poor could not be forced to violate their consciences to fully participate in American civic life", he said, referring to Trump's executive order providing relief for faith-based entities from being forced to participate in contraception coverage for employees. According to a report from The Hill, valedictorian C.J. Pine addressed his fellow graduates with a poignant speech about religious freedom and equality. Born in the United States, he was raised in Tianjin, China, and studied overseas in Israel and Jordan.

Mr Pence, meanwhile, used his speech to warn against attacks on freedom of speech. "Consider showing solidarity with these groups by joining" the walk-out.

He cited those experiences as well as his passion for current events in his speech.

"If we are going to build walls between American students and worldwide students, then I am skewered on the fence", said Mr Pine, who was raised in China.

In his introduction of Pence, Jenkins didn't steer away from politics, either. He did allude to clashes at campuses elsewhere and the spreading trend to designate campuses as "safe spaces" where speech is regulated. Both were also met with protests at Notre Dame. Join us for a short commencement celebration.

The commencement speech was originally supposed to be delivered by President Donald Trump, making him the seventh POTUS (President of the United States) to do so in the history of the university.

More than 2,000 people received degrees Sunday. His mother, Nancy, and wife Karen, were in attendance.

Pence concluded, "University of Notre Dame Class of 2017: this is your day. These practices are destructive", Pence said. "But commencement is not a moment for academic exchange or political dialogue". In 2009, many anti-abortion activists (largely outside the university) condemned Notre Dame for inviting President Obama to deliver the address, given his support for abortion rights.

Other reports by iNewsToday