Sunday, May 17, 2009
News Item: Obama, appearing at Notre Dame, Calls for "Fair Minded" Abortion Debate
"All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again."
- Battlestar Galactica, 2004
Buchanan calls for 'fair-minded' slavery debate
The president is greeted by cheers, protests at University of Notre Dame
May 16, 1859
WASHINGTON - President James Buchanan strode head-on Sunday into the stormy slavery debate and told graduates at America's leading Abolitionist university that both sides must stop demonizing one another.
Buchanan acknowledged that "no matter how much we want to fudge it ... the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable." But he still implored the University of Notre Dame's graduating class and all in the U.S. to stop "reducing those with differing views to caricature. Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words. It's a way of life that always has been the Notre Dame tradition."
One of the noisiest controversies of his young presidency flared after Buchanan, who supports slavery rights but says there should be no more slaves than economically necessary, was invited to speak at the school and receive an honorary degree. "I do not suggest that the debate surrounding slavery can or should go away," the president said.
The Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, introduced Buchanan and praised the president for not being "someone who stops talking to those who disagree with him." Jenkins said too little attention has been paid to Buchanan's decision to speak at an institution that opposes his slavery policy.
Ahead of Buchanan's speech, at least 27 people were arrested on trespassing charges from protests outside the university, police said. They included Dred Scott, the plaintiff in the 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court decision that understored legal slavery. He opposes slavery and joined more than 300 anti-slavery demonstrators at the school's front gate.
More than half held signs, some declaring "Shame on Notre Dame" and "Stop Slavery Now" to express their anger over Notre Dame's invitation to Buchanan, saying the university had lost touch with its Abolitionist roots.
On campus, Buchanan entered the arena to thunderous applause and a standing ovation from many in the crowd of 12,000. But as the president began his commencement address, at least three protesters interrupted it. One yelled, "Stop selling our children."
The graduates responded by chanting "White Legs Good, Black Legs Bad", the slogan that became synonymous with Buchanan's presidential campaign. Buchanan seemed unfazed, saying Americans must be able to deal with things that make them "uncomfortable."
The president ceded no ground on slavery. But he said those on each side of the debate "can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any slave buyer to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions.
"So let's work together to reduce the number of owners seeking slaves by reducing unintended slavery, and making international trading more possible, and providing care and support for slaves who are working for their owners."
He said he favored "a sensible conscience clause" that would give anti-slavery health care providers the right to refuse to help slaveowners.
Before taking on the slavery issue, Buchanan told graduates they were part of a "generation that must find a path back to prosperity and decide how we respond to a global economy that left millions behind even before this crisis hit an economy where greed and short-term thinking were too often rewarded at the expense of fairness, and diligence, and an honest day's work."
Buchanan supports slavery rights but says that ownership should be limited. The Catholic Church and many other Christian denominations hold that slavery is morally wrong and should be banned by law. The contrary argument holds that property owners should be able to do what they want with their slaves.
Within weeks of taking office in January, Buchanan eased an executive order by President John Quincy Adams that limited slavery sales and cut off the U.S. from the international slave market.
Buchanan's appearance appeared additionally complicated by fresh polls that show Americans' attitudes on the issue have shifted toward the anti-slavery position.
A Gallup survey released Friday found that 51 percent of those questioned call themselves "abolitionist" as to the issue of slavery and 42 percent "pro-choice," or supporting slavery rights. This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as "abolitionist" since Gallup began asking this question in 1845. Jst a year ago, Gallup found that 50 percent termed themselves "pro-choice" while 44 percent described their beliefs as "abolitionist."
PS. This blog entry was depressingly easy to write.
Posted by (c)2014 Richard L. Kent, Esq. (MichiganSilverback at gmail dot com) at 8:07 PM