Notre Dame to Honor Biden, Boehner

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Biden and Boehner watch as Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress last September. Biden and Boehner watch as Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress last September.

The University of Notre Dame will present Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner with what it calls "the most prestigious honor accorded to American Catholics." The 2016 Laetare Medal will be presented at Notre Dame's commencement ceremony in May.

The university says Biden and Boehner will receive the medal "in recognition of their leadership, civility and dedication to our nation." 

"We live in a toxic political environment where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership," said Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame. "Public confidence in government is at historic lows, and cynicism is high. It is a good time to remind ourselves what lives dedicated to genuine public service in politics look like. We find it in the lives of Vice President Biden and Speaker Boehner."

The Laetare Medal was established in 1883 and, according to Notre Dame, is awarded to a Catholic "whose genius has enobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity." Previous recipients include Civil War General William Rosencrans, President John F. Kennedy, Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil and actor Martin Sheen.

"In recognizing both men, Notre Dame is not endorsing the policy positions of either, but celebrating two lives dedicated to keeping our democratic institutions working for the common good through dialogue focused on the issues and responsible compromise," added Jenkins.

Notre Dame's 171st commencement ceremony will be held Sunday, May 15. Retired U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2011 to 2015, will deliver the commencement address.

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