On May 21, 2017, the University of Notre Dame celebrated its 172nd Commencement Ceremony. The ceremony took place in the Notre Dame Stadium with approximately 24,000 audience members in attendance.
The Class of 2017 seemed doomed to have a terrible graduation from the very beginning, as rain threatened to fall and the ceremony itself was pushed back an hour. Luckily for the graduates, the rain stopped just after all 2,081 degrees were conferred by President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
Caleb Pine, a Truman Scholar and Gilman Scholar, addressed the class soon after the rain parted to introduce the main speaker, Vice President Mike Pence. Father Jenkins also spoke and encouraged the class to strive for something higher, as well as embrace different ideas and views. The class; however, had a very different idea about what “something higher” truly means.
Soon after Pence began to speak, nearly 100 graduates got up and left the ceremony in protest. A Notre Dame student activist group called We StaND For planned the walkout to protest Pence for the policies he sought after during his time as an Indiana governor.
The students who left did so quietly and were met with a small amount of cheering and boos that ended quickly. Notre Dame school officials have reported that they knew about the planned walkout, but did not try to stop the students.
Traditionally, Notre Dame has asked newly elected presidents to speak at their commencements. Pence was the first ever Vice President to speak at a Notre Dame commencement, but originally the university did plan to invite President Donald Trump to speak. Thousands of students and faculty members protested the notion of Trump speaking by signing a petition urging Notre Dame’s president to invite Pence instead.
In the current political climate, more protests are occurring than ever before. Current politics demand citizen participation, and clearly, the students at Notre Dame felt the need to participate as well.