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Sebelius invokes JFK speech during Georgetown commencement address

May 21, 2012

Addressing the commencement ceremony of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius invoked President John F. Kennedy’s famed speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association.

Georgetown’s invitation to Sebelius provoked criticism because of her responsibility for the mandate that requires almost all health plans to provide coverage, without copayments of any kind, for contraception, women’s sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.

In 2008, Archbishop Joseph Naumann revealed that he had asked Sebelius not to receive Holy Communion because of her support for legalized abortion.

“When I was in junior high, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was running for president,” said Sebelius. “I wasn’t old enough to vote, but it was the first national campaign I really remember. Some of then-Senator Kennedy’s opponents attacked him for his religion, suggesting that electing the first Catholic president would undermine the separation of church and state, a fundamental principle of our democracy. The furor grew so loud that Kennedy chose to deliver a speech about his beliefs just seven weeks before the election.”

Sebelius added:

In that talk to Protestant ministers, Kennedy talked about his vision of religion and the public square, and said he believed in an America, and I quote, “where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against us all.”

Kennedy was elected president on November 8, 1960. And more than 50 years later, that conversation, about the intersection of our nation’s long tradition of religious freedom with policy decisions that affect the general public, continues.

Contributing to these debates will require more than just the quantitative skills you have learned at Georgetown. It will also require the ethical skills you have honed – the ability to weigh different views, see issues from other points of view, and in the end, follow your own moral compass.

These debates can also be contentious. But this is a strength of our country, not a weakness. In some countries around the world, it is much easier to make policy. The leader delivers an edict and it goes into effect. There’s no debate, no criticism, no second guessing.

Our system is messier, slower, more frustrating, and far better. It requires conversations that can be painful and it almost always ends in compromise. But it’s through this process of conversation and compromise that we move forward, together, step by step, towards a “more perfect union.”


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Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - May. 22, 2012 11:52 AM ET USA

    What a bunch of convoluted logic. This is understandable given that Ms. Sebelious is really a radical feminist and activist who is driven by a morally bankrupt philosophy that wants to redefine the Catholic moral compass as well as the US Constitution to fit her women’s liberation world view. In her perverse mind, implementing feminist dogma such as universal access to free contraceptives and abortion inducing drugs on everyone makes perfect sense. Even if it conflicts with a person’s religious beliefs (and is protected under the Constitution). High profile pseudo Catholics such as Ms. Sebelious are a clear and present danger to the Church and as such they should not be showcased and nurtured by Catholic institutions and religious. Rather they should be exposed for who they are – wayward Catholics in dire need of repentance.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - May. 22, 2012 11:03 AM ET USA

    I do not believe for one moment that the "Catholic Church" was the intended "target" of "American democracy" by the founding fathers but apparently some of us owe a belated apology to Leo XIII's practical foresight regarding "Americanism." But who would have thought that our own bishops and cardinals would have themselves opened the gates to the "Trojan Horse" of American "catholic" politicians?

  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - May. 22, 2012 9:41 AM ET USA

    She has accomplished her goal: her presence in a place of honor at Georgetown already served to diminsh that university. It is hard to watch Catholic administrators and faculty who know better be simply used in that way. Both Notre Dame and Geiorgetown failed to understand the difference between permitting debate on serious moral questions in order to defend the faith, as opposed to honoring those who support and participate in such grave actions against the teachings of our Lord.

  • Posted by: Chestertonian - May. 21, 2012 9:22 PM ET USA

    “where no religious body seeks to impose its will. . . " This is what Sebelius fails to understand. It is not the Church that is trying to impose, but the federal govt, and what it would impose is an unconstitutional infringement on the right of religious practice and of conscience. She needs to go back and learn a bit more about the Bill of Rights and the checks and balances on the various branches of govt. She is also in grave moral error and should resign from the Obama pro-abort Admin.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - May. 21, 2012 8:16 PM ET USA

    With a tip of the hat to Mr. Santorum, both speeches make me sick to the stomach.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - May. 21, 2012 3:34 PM ET USA

    She's absolutely right in alluding to the Kennedy speech to the Protestant ministers. He promised them he would govern without being a Catholic and she is doing the same thing.