Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Heartfelt Conviction vs. Heartfelt Desire

I've spent the past two days at various NYU graduation events; my sister Suellen is graduating from the Tisch School of the Arts (and boy, let me tell you! Art school graduation is way different from any other graduation I've ever been a part of! But very nice, nonetheless). Today is the real graduation ceremony, at Yankee Stadium, with Hillary Clinton as speaker.

Because of Suellen's graduation, I've spent a lot of time lately thinking (fondly) of my own, from Georgetown, last year. And because of happenings in the news and the blogosphere, I've been thinking (worriedly) of the what-ifs and what-would-I-dos.

The fact that the graduation speaker tomorrow is Hillary Clinton does not perturb me in the least. She's not my number one choice, of course, but I have no particular objection, nor surprise, at her selection by NYU. Besides, today is about supporting my sister, not my own politics or even my own morals.

My graduation speaker last year at Georgetown was the founder of Teach for America. Nice speech about making a difference in the world because we're young and idealistic and assume we can do things the world says are impossible.

But I keep thinking about what I would do in a different situation.

What if I'd been at a different prestigious Catholic university? What if I'd been graduating a year later? What if my graduation speaker last year had been similar to Notre Dame's this year?

Would I have been outraged that my Catholic school was bestowing an honor on a pro-abortion politician? Yes.

Would I have been pissed that my graduation ceremony had been hijacked by hype over the speaker? Definitely.

Would I have boycotted the ceremony? Would I have attended the protest and the alternate ceremony in, say, Dahlgren Chapel or Copley Crypt? I'm really not sure.

In that situation, I should have, definitely. With my beliefs, and the beliefs of my church, my university's faith, being disregarded like last month's news, with the lives and deaths of millions of innocents being ignored in favor of prestige and "honor," I should have taken a stand. Made sure that my presence at graduation did not contribute to any news reports about how many students at the school were ambivalent, or glad to see him, or didn't care about abortion, anyway. Taken steps to ensure that my presence did not appear to bestow legitimacy on his presence the way ND's invite so improperly appeared to bestow legitimacy on his beliefs.

But we're talking about my graduation day. I want to be able to celebrate with my friends (all of whom, I assure you, will not be protesting or boycotting). I spent the past 4 years with them. We were there for each other through miserable finals, bad grades, sleepless nights, homesickness, new friends, break-ups, heartbreaks, new loves, new jobs, sick parents, the deaths of grandparents, the first flowers of each spring, the first snowfalls of each winter, terrible professors, wonderful professors, exciting insights, personal injury, bad decisions, 2-day hangovers, that time the cops broke up my party, the 2004 election, the 2006 election, the Red Sox winning the penant (freakin' Red Sox), the Hoyas getting to the Final Four; the point of college is the education you gain, but the most important parts of college are the friendships and the life experiences that make them up.

is what I want to be thinking about on my graduation day. Not Obama. Not politics. Not the victims of abortion. (I spend time thinking about and praying for them every day. Can't graduation be about me? (Self-centered? Yes. Appropriately so? Probably not. Understandable? I think so.))

It'd be an easy choice if all my friends felt the same way I did about Obama, the abortion debate, and the bishops' guidelines. I'm not saying, of course, that my friends' opinions take precedence over mine; what I'm saying is that I shouldn't have to choose, not on my graduation day, between my heartfelt convictions and celebrating graduation with the people with whom I'm graduating.

And I'm saying that if I were forced to choose, I don't know what I'd do. I know where I'd want to be. I know where I should be. And I know they're not the same place.

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