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Graduation speakers at Catholic universities

Michael Sean Winters at the National Catholic Reporter devoted his big column Friday on graduation speaking season, particularly at Catholic colleges and universities - particularly to the self-serving bluster at the Cardinal Newman Society denouncing speakers it does not approve of. I suspect that they got such a fundraising bump for attacking Notre Dame over Obama that this is part of their funding strategy. Sadly, attacking John Kerry and Fr. Reese will not get much attention. I am sure they are hoping former Secretary Sebelius gets a call. You can read MSWs essay at

My alma mater, Loras College, mandates that all graduation speakers be Catholic. The best one ever was Erma Bommbeck, who at a mothers day graduation had the entire class waive to their mothers in the crowd. When they were done, she had sat down. Generally, Loras picks famous alums to speak. We had the Ambassador to Austria. The next class had Don Amiche (I assume he was better than Kerry), who was also an alum. At American, our speaker was Charles Schultz (the economist, not that cartoonist). He got hard core into policy - not sure what he talked about but I think he was going after Ronnie (even though I believe he was a Republican). A lady friend of mine was graduation speaker. Schultz thanked her for the way she shifted the tone.

There are countless small liberal arts colleges, and indeed second tier state schools, which don't get the big time speakers. They mainly have their own rules for picking them and CNS never tries to make public hey at their expense. As MSW says, their bit of bluster is mainly about fundraising - although because they cite being at NCR as a deal breaker, that bodes ill for MSW's changes for his Juris Doctor degree. I can't wait to see what they would do if I ever was invited to speak at a Catholic College - even Loras. The main problem with CNS is not that it has a religious agenda, it is rather using Catholic identity to promote a Republican agenda - essentially infering that one must be in the GOP to be a good Catholic. (My late father thought that as well). I think someone should get CNS back. Have a Catholic college invite Andrew Sullivan to speak, with a focus on Cardinal Newman's burial with his friend and what we can infer. The glorious thing is, the more they object, the more what Sullivan says will be magnified. You can connect the dots from there.

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