News & Politics

Notre Dame Students Walk Out of Mike Pence Graduation Speech

YouTube screenshot, Vice President Mike Pence addresses graduates at Notre Dame University.

On Saturday, about 150 students staged a walk-out protest against Vice President Mike Pence’s graduation speech at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind. Ironically, Pence used the speech to praise Notre Dame as a campus open to dissenting opinions.

“Notre Dame is a campus where deliberation is welcomed, where opposing views are debated, and where every speaker, no matter how unpopular or unfashionable, is afforded the right to air their views in the open for all to hear,” Pence declared, as the South Bend Tribune reported. But just as Pence began speaking, about 150 people, half students and half faculty members, walked out of the speech.

The walk-out had been planned in advance, and took place right as Pence took the podium. Some students and faculty even booed the sitting vice president as they filed out of his speech.

Pence intended to draw a contrast between Notre Dame and other colleges, but this act seemed to solidify the anti-speech trends on American campuses. “Far too many campuses across America have become characterized by speech codes, safe zones, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness, all of which amounts to nothing less than suppression of the freedom of speech.”

Benny Arthur Johnson, chief content officer at Independent Journal Review, denounced the walk-out in no uncertain terms. “Were I a parent, watching my son or daughter behave like this from the stands, I would know one singular, very important truth: This University failed my child.”

Johnson argued that the walk-out “would prove that this institution, which I had entrusted my kid to for four long years so they would be intellectually challenged & psychologically strengthened, had in-fact merely conditioned perpetual adolescence.” The school’s failure to intellectually challenge students would mean “my kid is heading for disaster.”

“This means my son or daughter had not yet grasped the most painful of all realities: That the world is not as we want it to be. You can’t just walk away from it. That reality is a brutal one. One, which Universities should endeavor to teach because, unfortunately, the world is a vicious place that does not care about your dissent,” the Independent Journal Review officer added.

“Turning your back & walking out on someone who is voicing a differing world view than yours is not ‘brave.’ It’s intellectually bankrupt. It’s cowardly. As a parent, I would not applaud. I would hang my head in shame,” Johnson concluded.

Today, dozens of Notre Dame grads turned their backs on VP Pence & walked out of their graduation in protest of… something.Were I a parent, watching my son or daughter behave like this from the stands, I would know one singular, very important truth: This University failed my child. The act would prove that this institution, which I had entrusted my kid to for four long years so they would be intellectually challenged & psychologically strengthened, had in-fact merely conditioned perpetual adolescence. I would be very sad, not just because of wasted tuition bills, but because this means my kid is heading for disaster. This means my son or daughter had not yet grasped the most painful of all realities: That the world is not as we want it to be. You can't just walk away from it. That reality is a brutal one. One, which Universities should endeavor to teach because, unfortunately, the world is a vicious place that does not care about your dissent. It is full of brutal realities, pain, failure and struggle. It will hit harder than any commencement speech & I want my kid to be able to take it & hit back, not walk out. The world is, sadly, also full of vicious people who will take advantage of my child's weakness. Those people will try to fire, slander or commit all sorts of evil against my child. Perhaps they will succeed. Is my kid strong enough to take it? If they behaved like this, the answer is 'no.' Turning your back & walking out on someone who is voicing a differing world view than yours is not 'brave.' It's intellectually bankrupt. It's cowardly. As a parent, I would not applaud. I would hang my head in shame. Perhaps we all should.

Posted by Benny Arthur Johnson on Sunday, May 21, 2017

These students did not just disrespect the sitting vice president of the United States (and former governor of Indiana), they also symbolically closed their ears — and their minds — to what he had to say. Johnson is right — such an action is not brave, and it certainly isn’t open-minded.

Colleges and universities across America have long bought a false diversity mantra. The most valuable form of diversity isn’t skin color or sexual orientation — it’s diversity of thought. College is a place where students learn that not everybody thinks the way they do, and they learn to deal with that. They hone arguments, discover new truths, and grasp the complexity of the world around them.

Shutting down diversity of thought cripples the very heart and soul of a liberal arts education. It leaves students unable to face the world around them, and it prevents them from mastering various forms of maturity.

Pence’s speech was meant to distinguish the intellectual closed-mindedness of other colleges from the virtues of Roman Catholic schools like Notre Dame. Instead, it highlighted just how far-reaching the closing of the liberal mind really is. Pence, who was raised Catholic but became an evangelical Protestant in college, encouraged Notre Dame graduates to “have faith that He who brought you this far will never leave you nor forsake you, because He never will.”

Perhaps no one needs to hear this encouraging message more than the very students who walked out of Pence’s speech. When those underserved students face a hostile world, they will need their faith more than ever.

Click “Load More” to see a video of the walk-out.