Over the weekend, Vice President Mike Pence returned to his home state of Indiana to deliver the commencement address at Notre Dame. One of only four conservatives to deliver commencement addresses at America’ top 100 schools this spring, Notre Dame’s students should have been grateful to hear from Vice President Pence. But his words of congratulation and advice for the future were not heard by a number of students, who made the unfortunate and infantile decision to walk out in protest, motivated by some illusions of SJW bravery.
They missed perhaps the only commencement speech delivered at one of our nation’s top universities that addressed the state of free speech on America’s college campuses. The vice president called out recent anti-free speech actions by university officials that are a “noxious wave … rushing over much of academia.” He calls out “speech codes, safe spaces, tone policing, [and] administration-sanctioned political correctness” which, Pence says, “amounts to the suppression of free speech.”
Below is an excerpt of thevice president’s speech at Notre Dame that ought to be heeded by leftist administrators and students nationwide. “America must be,” as Pence quotes, “a place where the endless conversation is harbored and not foreclosed.”
So I urge you, as the rising generation – carry the ideals and values that you have learned at Notre Dame into your lives and careers.
Be leaders in your families, your communities, and in every field and endeavor, for the values you learned here at Notre Dame.
And in these divided times, I urge you – take one more aspect of the culture of this historic institution into the mainstream of American life.
If the emanations of free speech were charted on a map like infrared heat signatures, one would hope that the universities would be the hottest places, red and purple with dispute, not dark blue and white, frozen into cant, orthodoxy, and intellectual stasis.
On such a map, Notre Dame would burn bright with the glow of vibrant discussion.
This university is a vanguard of freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas at a time, sadly, when free speech and civility are waning on campuses across America.
Notre Dame is a campus where deliberation is welcomed – where opposing views are debated – and where every speaker, no matter how unpopular or unfashionable their opinions, is afforded the right to air them in the open for all to hear.
But Notre Dame is an exception – an island in a sea of conformity, so far spared from the noxious wave that is rushing over much of academia.
While this institution has maintained an atmosphere of civility and open debate, far too many campuses across America have become characterized by speech codes, safe spaces, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness – all of which amounts to the suppression of free speech.
These all-too-common practices are destructive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge. And they are wholly outside the American tradition.
As the young are the future, and universities the bellwether of thought and culture, the increasing intolerance and suppression of the time-honored tradition of free expression on our campuses puts at risk the liberties of every American.
This should not – and must not – be met with silence.
A little more than two years ago, I was here when this university, this nation, and the world, bid farewell to a giant of this institution – and of the 20th Century – Father Theodore Hesburgh.
His contributions as the longest-serving President of this institution are legion. But his moral example is greater still – and will impact generations.
And on this point, he wrote words of admonition that I hope you will carry into the careers of consequence that will unfold before you.
He said that, “Notre Dame can and must be a crossroads where all the vital intellectual currents of our time meet in dialogue, where the great issues… are plumbed to their depths, where every sincere inquirer is welcomed and listened to… where differences of culture and religion and conviction can co-exist with friendship, civility, hospitality, respect and love.”
Father Ted said Notre Dame was to be, as she is to this day, “a place where the endless conversation is harbored and not foreclosed.”
And I say – so, too, must America be.