The Wrong Stuff?

DAYTON, Ohio—Most Americans recognize John Glenn, the first American in space, as a hero. Especially in his native Ohio, where he was elected several times to U.S. Senate.

Bringing such a man to a college campus, like the University of Dayton, and awarding him for virtue would only seem natural.

Unless, of course, the campus is Catholic and he earned a perfect voting record in Congress from supporters of abortion.

“I am very sadly disappointed that a campus that I love and a University where I feel I am receiving an excellent education would make such a choice that disregards the fundamental belief that life is sacred,” said Kristen Sheridan, president of Students for Life at the University of Dayton.

“I believe as a Catholic university we are called to respect life and should honor those who, among other things, work to uphold it as sacred from birth to natural death,” said Sheridan. “Unfortunately, John Glenn has not done this.”

Which is why pro-life activists have petitioned the alumni association to rescind the invitation to Glenn to receive the second annual Leadership with Virtue award.

Dayton Right to Life head Angie McGraw agreed that “there are many great things about the University of Dayton.” But she felt an obligation to pressure her alma mater that they should not be honoring a man who rejects human rights for unborn children, she said. “Our objection to John Glenn is based on his 100% pro-abortion record.”

The university countered that while it does not share Glenn's pro-abortion sentiment, it still regards the former senator's virtues worthy of recognition at a Catholic university.

Abortion Diversity

“People hold a diversity of opinions about abortion,” Teri Rizvi, a spokeswoman for the University of Dayton, told the Register in a statement. “As a Catholic institution, the University of Dayton disagrees with his voting record on abortion and do not support it.”

She continued, “However, when you look at the list of characteristics for this award, you realize that John Glenn over a lifetime has demonstrated a standard of leadership that few can match.”

Rizvi added that no recipient of the award was without fault.

“The award is not for perfection. No leader who takes definitive and courageous stands will be perfect by all parties. We live in a world where even the most virtuous are imperfect,” she added.

But perfection isn't what pro-lifers are looking for, just a hope that Catholic institutions would stop rewarding abortion supporters with awards or commencement speeches.

Pro-lifers have acknowledged that John Glenn will receive the award on Sept. 20 despite their opposition. But they hope that the university will think twice before inviting another abortion supporter to campus.

“The Students for Life organization have and will continue to voice this disapproval to the University,” said Sheridan. “We plan to pressure them in a way that an occurrence such as this will not again take place. We hope to bring an increased awareness of the importance of life so that it may be given greater importance in future decisions.”