An interesting feature of President Obama's commencement speech at Notre Dame yesterday (transcript here, video here):
The president spoke of the need "to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity
-- diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief . . . [to] find a way to live together as one human family." On some subjects, he spoke as though this need to cooperate -- to find "common ground," as he said elsewhere in the speech -- were the highest goal:
The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal
passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps
needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical
pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves
unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts.
Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an
admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the
parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their
son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved.
But on other subjects, he spoke as if the highest goal were for right to win and wrong to be defeated:
After all, I stand here today, as President and as an African American,
on the 55th anniversary of the day that the Supreme Court handed down
the decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Now, Brown was of course
the first major step in dismantling the "separate but equal" doctrine,
but it would take a number of years and a nationwide movement to fully
realize the dream of civil rights for all of God's children. There were
freedom rides and lunch counters and Billy clubs, and there was also a
Civil Rights Commission appointed by President Eisenhower. It was the
12 resolutions recommended by this commission that would ultimately
become law in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Under which category does abortion fall? In the president's mind, it appeared to fall under the first: "When we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think
precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe -- that's
when we discover at least the possibility of common ground. . . . That's when we begin to say, 'Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we
can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not
made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.'" This isn't how he spoke about the freedom rides and the lunch counters and the Billy clubs.
Considering that, at this moment, the tide of popular opinion -- perhaps even the tide of history -- appears to be shifting against Obama and his view of abortion, he may want to rethink that position.
(Image © Nancy Stone for the Chicago Tribune)