Vice President Joe Biden and former House Speaker John Boehner shared the stage at Notre Dame University’s commencement ceremony Sunday where they both spoke on the current negative state of politics.Biden and Boehner, who are both Catholics, were each awarded the 2016 Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious honor at the catholic university. Biden joked that while he didn’t like Boehner — the two were often on opposite sides over issues like Obamacare and government spending — he “loved him.” Boehner, for his part, said it was an honor to share the stage with the vice president. Notre Dame’s President Rev. John I. Jenkins, said the university chose to give the prestigious award to the two politicians from different sides as a comment on the current political environment “where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership.”
“It is a good time to remind ourselves what lives dedicated to genuine public service in politics look like. We find it in the lives of Vice President Biden and Speaker Boehner,” he said in a statement.
Biden, who didn’t cite any specific politicians in his condemnation, said while politics has long been a full contact sport, “it has recently become a blood sport full of invective,” adding that he has “not seen it like this” in his career.
“We used to treat each other with respect,” Biden told the audience in South Bend, Indiana. “John (Boehner) and I aren’t old school. We’re the American school … progress only comes when you deal with your opponent with respect. Listening as well as talking.”
While Notre Dame’s commencement addresses were getting underway, a couple dozen protesters gathered Sunday morning at the university’s main gate to publicly object to Vice President Joe Biden receiving the Laetare Medal. Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner were presented with the medal, which is awarded to prominent Catholics, at the commencement ceremony in Notre Dame Stadium. Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago, came to South Bend with a small contingent to protest. He said he believes Biden’s support for abortion access goes contrary to Catholic social teachings, and that Biden shouldn’t receive a medal that honors Catholic Americans. “The idea that our unborn brothers and sisters would be without a voice today is unconscionable,” Scheidler said. “That’s why we are here.” Still, the goal is not to disrupt, he added. “In a way, we are also here on behalf of the pro-life students,” Scheidler said. “It must be difficult for students with a strong Catholic faith and pro-life convictions to see Notre Dame ignore not only the teachings of the church, but also the plea of the local bishop to not go forward with the award.” Shawn Sullivan, director and founder of The Apostolate of Divine Mercy and The Life Center in South Bend, was also at the protest. They were there to witness, he said, and hopefully highlight the issue for passers-by. Graphic signs depicted aborted fetuses or declared statements such as “Shame on Notre Dame” or “Catholic Faith Attacked From Within.”
Photo: provided by University of Notre Dame