Gwen Brown is professor of communication at Radford University in Virginia; and Matthew Franck is chairman of the department of political science at Radford.
Speakers analyze Obama’s invitation to Notre Dame commencement.
In their joint presentation in the same session with Beckwith, the husband-and-wife team of Brown and Franck made similar observations.
Brown said the Obama speech met generic requirements of a commencement speech, and it succeeded politically but failed ethically. The president "smuggled in" an argument about the relationship of faith to reason, Brown said, and depicted the pro-life side as unreasonable.
"For Obama, reason and faith are not mutually supportive, but rivals and antagonists," Brown said.
In his analysis of the Obama speech, Franck said the president praised himself for having learned not to "demonize" those on the other side of the abortion issue, and he paid tribute to Notre Dame and its students for demonstrating, by the invitation to him, that they also do not demonize people either.
Franck said that Obama deftly used references to "common ground" on "moral issues" like poverty, AIDS and the death penalty, but depicted abortion as "just another cause-of-the-month that some people choose," in spite of the fact that abortion is "the only one of these 'moral issues' that entails the deliberate and targeted killing of innocent human beings with the sanction of the law."
The Obama message to the graduates about abortion, Franck said, was that the pro-choice side sprang from reason, whereas the pro-life side sprang from faith; and faith, Obama told the graduates, "necessarily admits doubt."
"What lesson did they (graduates) learn on their last day under the tutelage of Our Lady's university, courtesy of the president of the United States?" Brown asked. "They learned how to make a bad argument look reasonable and even acceptable if it is cloaked in the robes of rhetoric. ... This was, by ethical standards, an abysmal last lesson."