Monday, May 11, 2009

is 8-year-old news too old for a blog post?


Below is an article (well, originally intended as a letter to the editor) I wrote to the South Bend Tribune after my 2001 graduation (with an MA in International Peace Studies) from the Unviersity of Notre Dame. I wrote because they had published this picture of me the day before, with a caption saying that a student was turning his back on the speaker, then-President George W. Bush, "apparently in protest." I wanted to be sure it was clear that it was absolutely in protest, and why. Below my piece is an article they did on me, for context. Oh, and also, the NY Times did an article about the event in which they also quoted me, which I thought was exciting.

I'm putting all this here today because a reporter from the South Bend Tribune actually tracked me down in Bolivia and interviewed me about the current kerfuffle regarding Notre Dame's invitation to Barack Obama as this year's commencement speaker. That article is here.

Commentary on Bush Commencement Address
Daniel J. Moriarty
South Bend Tribune 22 May 2001


At the time of this commentary Daniel J. Moriarty was a candidate for a master's degree in arts and peace studies at Notre Dame


I am a student in the masters program at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. During George Bush's commencement address at Notre Dame, I knelt in the center aisle saying the rosary, back turned, during the president's address. I did so because I feel the University was wrong to invite President Bush, and to award him an honorary degree. I turned away in dissent. I prayed because I felt it was also important to turn toward something - toward God in a posture I hope was more consistent with the values Notre Dame exists to promote. As protesters outside before the ceremony explained, George Bush's policies are widely opposed to Catholic social teaching. On issues from the death penalty and labor to the environment and nuclear proliferation, George W. Bush does more to promote what Pope John Paul II has called "the culture of death" than he does to counter it. I could not in good conscience be complicit in welcoming his message and condoning the conferment of his honorar degree by the university.

I was facing the stage during the valedictorian address, in which Carolyn Weir posed the question to the world: "Why do you play God, by executing the guilty?" During the roar of applause that followed, Bush very visible leaned over, laughing, and made a joking aside to Notre Dame President Edward Malloy, CSC. Father Malloy did not join in the president's laughter at such a solemn question - one obviously aimed at Bush himself. But seeing the Notre Dame Commencement stage offered up for such public displays of callousness on the part of Mr. Bush symbolized, for me, all that was wrong with the invitation.

Later, as Bush gave his address, I prayed for the victims of Bush's policies. I prayed in particular for the people of Latin America. Having spent nearly 5 years as a lay missioner in Bolivia, I know the suffering caused by so many U.S. policies in the region. I am especially concerned about the proposed appointments of John Negroponte as U.S. ambassador to the UN, and Otto Reich as Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. Both men were instrumental in perpetrating the abuses of the "contras" in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Their pending appointments in the new administration mark a return to dangerous days of U.S. disregard for human rights and sovereignty. Bush's support for President Clinton's Plan Colombia is also of grave concern.

President Bush's address did nothing to allay my fears. He used Notre Dame's good name to mask unchristian policies in the rhetoric of Catholic social teaching. Especially offensive was his reference to Dorothy Day. Bush's speech writers did a brilliant job, but I doubt seriously that the president even knows who Dorothy Day was. He is oblivious to the values she stood for. For example, Bush's call for more corporate help for the poor was a thinly disguised push for further supporting big business while abandoning government safety nets to the whims of a profit-driven market.

The commencement address was aired live on CNN and other television networks. It was the climax of a recent campaign by the president to consolidate the Catholic support he has done so much to squander. Notre Dame President Malloy allowed our great university to be exploited in this effort. I hope the community and the country see through the pomp and circumstance and choose the Catholic - and universal - values taught at Notre Dame over the harmful policies of George W. Bush.

In Peace,
Daniel J. Moriarty


The article they did the same day is here:
Kneeling was 'act of conscience'
Notre Dame student Daniel J. Moriarty: University wrong to invite Bush
Jack Colwell / South Bend Tribune (Indiana) 22may01


SOUTH BEND -- The Notre Dame graduate student who knelt in the center aisle at commencement, back to President Bush and saying the rosary throughout the president's 22-minute speech, came forward Monday with an explanation: "The university was wrong to invite President Bush."

Why wrong?

Daniel J. Moriarty, candidate for a master's degree in arts and peace studies, said Bush's stance is in conflict with Catholic social teaching on issues from "the death penalty and labor to the environment and nuclear proliferation."

News media attempts to identify the kneeling protester Sunday after the commencement ceremony were unsuccessful. It appeared that Moriarty had slipped away and wished anonymity.

Not so.

He came forward Monday, contacting The Tribune with a request that his explanation be printed. His statement appears today as a Michiana Point of View on Page A11.

Moriarty also answered questions about why he did what he did and the reaction of fellow students.

First he stood, back to the stage, when an honorary doctorate was conferred upon Bush, Moriarty said, and "a few people shouted at me to sit down."

So, Moriarty said, for the longer protest during the Bush speech, he decided to kneel.

"It was an appropriate posture," he said, "and it would not anger people (fellow graduates) who have a right to hear their speaker."

Moriarty is a 30-year-old graduate student in the master's program at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame. His degree will be awarded next month. He then will be a social justice minister on the campus ministry team at Seattle University, a Jesuit institution at which he will work with undergraduates on social justice outreach efforts. His home town is near Seattle.

Between receiving his undergraduate degree at William & Mary College and coming to Notre Dame last August, Moriarty spent five years as a lay missionary in Bolivia, taught in a Washington, D.C., school and worked in the American Embassy in the Hague.

Kind of hard on the knees?

Yes, the 22 minutes of kneeling in the Joyce Center aisle got uncomfortable, Moriarty said. "I was sweating."

He was also saying the rosary. "I made it through two," Moriarty said. But he said he isn't "like some kind of monk" frequently saying the rosary. He did so Sunday in such a public way, he said, because of a need for "an act of conscience" to protest Bush's policies and Notre Dame's decision to honor the president.

Moriarty said he was appalled when the president appeared to laugh and make a joking aside to Notre Dame President Edward A. Malloy in response to a critical remark about the death penalty in the valedictorian's address.

He said that "such public displays of callousness on the part of Mr. Bush symbolized for me all that was wrong with the invitation."

It was no spur-of-the-moment decision to protest, Moriarty said. "I thought about it since I heard President Bush was coming."

But he wasn't sure exactly what he would do.

Stand? Face away from the stage? Could he get a seat on the aisle?

Even his wife, who was in the audience, "wasn't sure what I'd end up doing." And she didn't know until afterward. Not everybody could see the kneeling graduate student. Among those who couldn't was his wife, so she could not record his protest on their video camera.

Worth it?

Well, he had to do something, Moriarty said. But he feared that being shown as "one guy in the aisle" gave an impression that he was the lone protester. Others protested outside, Moriarty noted, and some inside, faculty and graduates, wore white arm bands in protest.

Did the president see the kneeling protest? It would have been hard to miss from the stage. But it paled in comparison with the more visible and vocal protests Bush encountered Monday at Yale University, his own alma mater.

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