May 16th, 2009
07:15 AM ET

Dear President Obama #117: Notre Dame et Notre President

Reporter's Note: President Obama has asked for ideas. I’m sending a letter each day to the White House. I have not heard yet if he regrets the invitation, but I’m wondering...

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/03/24/obama.bishop/art.notre.dame.afp.gi.jpg caption="The University of Notre Dame says its invitation doesn't mean the university agrees with all of Obama's positions."]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I’ve put off talking about this Notre Dame speech fracas for about as long as I can. I understand and respect that many people take it very seriously, this business of you being honored by a Catholic University while supporting abortion rights. I also understand that while some Catholics strongly object to you being there, half or more of them, according to polls, think you should make the speech anyway. I’ll leave it to you and the folks there to sort it out, of course.

But I did want to write a bit about this business of defending one’s beliefs in America, because it is a sticky wicket as the Brits might say. (I’m not kidding. I’ve heard them say things like that. It’s pretty cute.)

There is an old joke about a preacher meeting the town slacker on the street.

“Look at you,” the minister says, “drinking, lazing about, gambling, ignoring your family. Don’t you know God wants you to do better?”

“Yes, I know,” the man replies.

“Don’t you know He is watching all you do?”

“Yes. And I’ll take your words to heart.”

“Good. Then I’ll see you sober, clean, and in church Sunday?” the minister says.

“Hold on,” the man says, “now you’ve gone from preaching, and you got into meddling!”

I fear our society, writ large, is not sure how far faith should or should not go into the land of public policy; we’re not sure how much we can or can’t render up to Caesar; we’re not in agreement on what constitutes preaching and what makes up meddling.

I admire people who stand up for their beliefs, even when I disagree with them. I admire them more, if they respect others in the same way. To that end, I remind myself that people of faith, of all kinds of faith, have done great things for our nation precisely because their faith guided them to action; however, faith, run rampant, has also led to great travesties.

I tend to think all kinds of voices should be heard in all sorts of places. Often I think both liberals and conservatives talk about free speech a lot, but only when the speaker is someone they agree with. (The Internet, btw, has magnified that effect like nothing else. Just try drifting into a heavily partisan blog on either side of the political divide and suggesting the opposition has some decent ideas; you’ll be chased out of town faster than Miss California from a gay bar.)

And yet oddly, I think most of us benefit when we hear more, not less, from the people we disagree with. If our ideas are sound, they will stand up to the challenges of someone else’s argument. If not we may learn something. And in any event, we may all find between the preaching and the meddling, real communication about real issues.

Look. There I go preaching again. Sorry to meddle.

Hope your weekend is a good. Call if you get a moment, although not sure where you’d keep your phone in that robe. Ha!



Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. john gokee

    john gokee May 18th, 2009 11:09 am ET
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    So the cathilocs want me to live under the laws of their religious belifes. hay wait a minute why is my son being sent to a foreign country to fight people who are trying to make others live under laws of their reliogus beliefs?

    May 18, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  2. john gokee

    So the cathilocs want me to live under the laws of their religious belifes. hay wait a minute why is my son being sent to a foreign country to kill people who are trying to make others live under laws of their reliogus beliefs?

    May 18, 2009 at 11:09 am |
  3. RLWellman

    If quality of life is better than life, should we start aborting people over 80 years old, if they don't contribute to society and in poor health?
    I don't know where you get your statistics, most people are not pro-abortion. They are not even pro-choice, they are pro-life. You need to find a better place to get your facts.
    President Obama said it is okay for late term abortions, right up to the time of delivery. Wait until the top of the head is crowning, cut the top of the head open, and suck out the brains. What do you think about that?

    May 18, 2009 at 8:41 am |
  4. Joe Jones

    Why are people against Obama about abortion? If Jeffrey Dammer or Hitler rapes your daughter or wife, are you gonna keep the baby? Are you going to support the life of Dammer's son or Hitler's son?

    May 18, 2009 at 6:18 am |
  5. double standards

    Educational institutions such as Notre Dame should support U.S. laws. Also the Catholics should demonstrate with the same passion against pedophiles priests within the Catholic Church. Because the responsibility to protect kids doesn’t stop with birth.

    May 18, 2009 at 2:40 am |
  6. Carmen

    This is after the speech and believe Notre Dame did they right thing. Believe me the Catholic church should not point fingers with all that they've went through young boys issue ring a bell. Anyway I am pro-life and know this issue has to be left up to the individual it's a moral issue.

    I have two questions to those who protest:

    1. If a woman is pregnant and finds out she has ovarian cancer should she abort the baby?

    2. Would a protestor fund a pregnant woman's unborn childs delivery and support for the child for the rest of his or her life?

    This would make me a hypocrites.

    May 18, 2009 at 1:33 am |
  7. crashman

    AMEN TO GUDDY!!! EXACTLY – – – President Obama speaks from his heart -- these choices are to be made by the female, God, and her doctor. Each case is different. To say something is wrong, no matter what - is wrong. A young girl's life is worthless to save a fetus because to some it is murder to have the pregnancy ended at a very early stage. Where are all the protestors when there is 10% of US babies starving to death (is that a better way to murder?). When they have helped a 12 – 13 yr. old girl have a baby because she 'had' to carry it full term - their views may be different. Then to say it is always 'murder'. (God's will?) No, it is being merciful and should be decided by the families - not the government or religious groups.
    If God was in control of all pregnancies – – there would not be women who could not conceive, but would be 'good' mothers and there would not be women having many babies and not able to care for them. God does not plan for a baby to be born, live neglected and then die.
    President Obama knows pain and has made the most sain logical comments of any politician. Take care of the priests that need help and stop the abortion protests.

    May 18, 2009 at 12:23 am |
  8. Cindy

    @ Annie from Texas: I applaud the students that missed their graduation ceremony. They did so because of their strong conviction and their stand on abortion. Anyone can go with the flow but that is their right and their privilege. They will be able to look back with pride and say to their children that they stood on that principle. It took a lot of courage and I am encouraged that there are more and more that are not afraid to stand up for how they feel about issues such as Miss California. Remember that popularity is a passing and fleeting thing....Eight years from now who knows if Obama will be popular or not but one's belief will last forever.

    May 18, 2009 at 12:17 am |
  9. Mark Olsen

    The science of embryology tells us that human beings develop rapidly after fertilization of the egg.
    In fact, since the heart of the fetus begins to beat by 24 days, virtually all abortions (other than "emergency contraception") stop a beating heart. In fact, since most abortion occur between 4-6 weeks, they also destroy a functioning brain.
    Even modern embryology textbooks agree that human life begins at conception. Since abortion ends human life, one must ask the question whether abortion is justifiable homicide or murder.

    May 17, 2009 at 11:07 pm |
  10. JLG

    Dear All,
    I, like many others have a history/story to tell, but for now I'll share a pround memory.
    I once 'found' myself in the midst of an anti-abortion rally. And I was amazed that a 'pink-haired' girl carried a bright pink sign that said, 'My Mom is pro-choice'
    Gawdluv both her and her Mom.

    May 17, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  11. Gerry

    It becomes a "sticky wicket" after two or three days rain. Bowlers can rain havoc on the batsmen. Obama will need all his debating skills – definitely walked into something outside the Recession. May be your next letter to the President on the new Supremel Court nominee will be more crucial as to Women's rights to give birth or abort.

    May 17, 2009 at 9:42 pm |
  12. Jamie

    Why do people find things to complain about, lets all complain about OUR President giving a speech at Notre Dame, who cares, will that change everything this country has to offer? It is no wonder this world is the way it is, someone always has something to complain about. Give it up people and stop being a bunch of babies. It is a graduation at Notre Dame, its not the summit here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 17, 2009 at 8:58 pm |
  13. RLWellman

    I'm a RN and do not believe in abortion, I believe it is killing, this is my belief. Why is it the Government wants me to help perform abortions because it is a woman's right to believe this way? I was told by an Ohio Democratic Representative, I can not discriminate against this person because of what she believes. How is it the representative can tell me I can't believe the way I do? It is alright for a woman to believe she can have an abortion, but I can't believe it is murder and refuse to assist.
    Less than 3% of all abortions in the USA are because the woman's health is in danger. That leaves 97% are just because the woman wants to. That's 1.46 million babies each year are killed because the mother doesn't want them. Where is the outrage because of this?

    May 17, 2009 at 8:34 pm |
  14. Cindy

    I understood the controversy. I am catholic; however, I am a catholic that feels it is time for the church to uphold it's beliefs & at the same time; be more than just catholic. Show some compasson for the beliefs of the rest of society. President Obama in my opinion, is doing the best he canto bring our very divided country back together as a United States of America.

    I didn't pay much attention to politics until I heard or should say this man caught my ear with his words of "hope" – that speech in Iowa. I was mesmerized from that point on. It got to me that a man like this had the audacity to bring this kind of tak to the Americanpeople &themost amazing pat; they lisened with open hearts, minds, & prayers. Prayers that it just might be possible. These kinds of things were said to me as achild in the catholic church. At seminars by people like Zig Ziglar. This manwas running fo the presidencency ofthe United States & was so brave to go right forthe hearts of the American people. He had faith in us as a society. I was so honored today to hear his speech at the commencement ceremony here in Indiana. In fat, until obama, I don't recall Indiana mattering much at all, except for being proud of our own Dick Lugar.
    Obama is changing Indiana, it is about time!
    "The Golden Rule"; we were all taught this, we have all forgotten at some point how to use it. Today, Mr. Obama reminded me of being in that catholic school, & why iloved it so much & just why I am so proud of my parents for having the wisdom to allow me that educaion.
    Yes, i have become a huge CNN & Obama fan. Cnn, I have found reports both sides & seems more fair than the Fox network. Most everything I know to be true of the President has come from CNN. I am so greatful to all of you.
    Thank You, Cindy
    PS I am sure Mr. Obama will do something I don't agree with at some point. So far, he hasmy vote in 2012.

    May 17, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  15. Carlos

    I don't think Obama is as pro-choice as people portray him to be, just like his battle against unregulated capitalism doesn't make him a socialist. People tend to se things as either black or white.Maybe his plan on regulating or reducing abortions could be more effective than making it illegal.

    May 17, 2009 at 6:47 pm |
  16. A Texan

    He is so charming.

    "If you're looking for a 62 point guard, you know where I live."

    May 17, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
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