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Pence, Not Trump, to Speak at Notre Dame Commencement

FILE - Vice President Mike Pence, pictured at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Feb. 23, 2017, will be the first vice president to address a Notre Dame commencement.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will deliver the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame this year, an honor customarily reserved for newly elected U.S. presidents.

Notre Dame’s president, the Reverand John Jenkins, said in a statement, “It is fitting that in the 175th year of our founding on Indiana soil that Notre Dame recognize a native son who served our state and now the nation with quiet earnestness, moral conviction and a dedication to the common good characteristic of true statesmen.”

Pence was the governor of Indiana before being picked as President Donald Trump’s running mate.

Jenkins has criticized Trump over his executive order limiting travel and refugees from some Muslim-majority countries, saying it would “demean our nation.’’

In a December statement, Jenkins said he was considering whether to extend a speaking invitation to Trump but didn’t “want the surrounding controversy to distract from the central purpose of commencement.’’

University spokesman Paul Browne declined to say whether Trump was invited to the May 21 ceremony.

Usual appearances

Presidents and vice presidents typically deliver commencement addresses each spring. The White House has yet to announce any commencements for Trump.

America’s best-known Roman Catholic university faced withering criticism from dozens of bishops and anti-abortion groups over its decision to have President Barack Obama, an abortion rights supporter, speak at the 2009 commencement just months after he took office.

Pence will be the first vice president to address a Notre Dame commencement. Pence said in a statement that it is “extraordinarily humbling’’ to be able to return to Indiana for the Notre Dame ceremony, during which he will be awarded an honorary degree.