Notre Dame’s 171st University Commencement


It was caps, gowns and gloves for the 2,163 Notre Dame undergraduates who were graduating Sunday.

This special day started in the 30’s.

But the weather wasn’t going to stop these students from enjoying one of the biggest moments of their lives – and listening to some big name speakers certainly added to the excitement.

Former House speaker John Boehner and Vice President Joe Biden, who received the 2016 Laetare Medal, shared a few inspiring words.

Said Boehner, “I learned it wasn’t the job they had, whether it was the Pope or Lou Holtz, it was who they were as people that helped me decide who I was going to be and what I was going to be throughout my life.”

Said Biden, “Progress only comes when you deal with your opponent with respect, listening as well as talking. Class of 2016, you are the best educated, most tolerant generation in the history of the United States of America. So, engage. Engage in the tireless pursuit of finding common ground because not only will you be happier, you will be incredibly more successful.”

But not everyone was supportive of Vice President Biden receiving this honor.

Protesters stood outside the university, many traveling hours to be there.

Protestor Dog Ritter said, “Joe Biden was a pro-life public official and he has not been for years. This is a Catholic school and it doesn’t mean you are narrow minded if you simply adhere to your teaching. And the good thing about the Catholic Church is, if you adhere to the Catholic Church’s teaching, the defenseless are protected.”

But whether you agree or disagree with this year’s Laetare medal recipients, it’s safe to say this day is one not soon forgotten.

Notre Dame Valedictorian Abby Davis said, “We will embrace the uncomfortable, we will fight for what we believe in and value. We will take care of ourselves and persevere through whatever challenges come our way and we will make our Notre Dame diplomas count in ways greater than we can imagine.”

Retired US Army general Martin Dempsey received an honorary degree, along with six others.

The university also awarded the very first Hesburgh-Stephan medal – named in honor of the late Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, Notre Dame’s 15th president.

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