Who sacked Notre Dame’s moral autonomy?

“Father Hesburgh made his position on the war very clear Friday afternoon as he introduced Senator Charles Goodell to a group of over 350 students in the Stepan Center.  ‘If I had the wisdom and the power I would stop the war tonight before midnight, ‘ Hesburgh stated.  The remark was followed by over twenty seconds of applause.”   
                                            – The Observer, October 13, 1969

Long time Notre Dame President Father Theodore Hesburgh was unusually politically active by today’s standards.  He was anti-Vietnam, anti-draft, and heavily involved in the civil rights movement.  He flexed the University’s moral muscle unashamedly, and was considered a potential running mate to the anti-war George McGovern in 1972.

Today, after ten years of war and $1 trillion of spending, ND’s administration is strangely silent.  Through its media choreography, it implicitly endorses our wars in Central Asia, the Middle East, and domestically — a notable shift from its posture during Vietnam — but in terms of using actual rhetoric or better yet, university policy, it does nothing.  This myopic approach is disappointing. 

Reclaiming its moral autonomy is important in that both University and Country would benefit from intellectual independence, genuine inquiry and, when warranted, thoughtful dissent.

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