Menu

Politics

Executive

Obama to Acknowledge Controversy in Notre Dame Remarks

President Obama won't shy away from the controversy surrounding his attendance at Sunday's Notre Dame graduation.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday the president would mention the debate surrounding his invitation to deliver the Catholic university's commencement address and receipt of an honorary degree.

"I think the president will obviously make mention of the debate that's been had," Gibbs said. "I think the president is somebody who has taught in a university setting, would understand that this is exactly the type of give and take that's had on college campuses all over the country."

Obama's support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research puts him at odds with the Catholic Church's teachings. His invitation to Notre Dame has sparked criticism from at least 74 Catholic bishops and protests which led to arrests Friday, including that of former Republican presidential hopeful Alan Keyes.

While the president will address how his positions on abortion and stem cell research differ from that of the Church, Gibbs noted the president will focus his remarks on the graduates. 

"I think you'll hear him address it, but I think you'll also have a president and commencement speaker that's quite cognizant of the fact that this is a commencement ceremony. This is a special occasion for families to celebrate the conferring of degrees in this ceremony and that the president will understand that's the most important aspect of the day."

Sunday's commencement address will be the second for Obama since becoming president. 

On Wednesday he delivered commencement remarks at Arizona State University where he was also surrounded by some controversy. ASU created a stir last month when it announced that it would not be giving Obama an honorary degree because his body of work was not extensive enough. 

The president acknowledged the slight in his remarks, jokingly saying his wife Michelle, "has a list of things I have not yet done waiting for me when I get home."