March to Death

The University of Notre Dame and civil rights groups are not unfamiliar entities, and their connection lies in their leaders.

Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., holding hands at a civil rights rally at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Photo taken from Hesburgh’s personal website. Click the photo to link to source.

Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sang “We Shall Overcome” on June 21, 1964, while at a civil rights rally. The image was acquired by the Smithsonian and hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, though copies are also seen on campus at Notre Dame, most notably in the west archway of the LaFortune Student Center. Hesburgh was also the university president who allowed women to enroll as students in 1972, just forty years ago.

At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Discussion and dinner, student leaders gathered to confer on topics including America’s role abroad, the use of social media, poverty and inequality and the Notre Dame Catholic identity. The chat was brief, and I hope students will continue the conversation beyond what was tossed around over delicate salads and exquisite cakes.

Spotting a student whom I had encountered (and interviewed) previously, I bundled up in my overcoat and scarf and accompanied him on the brisk walk to our dorms.

A pro-life advocate and previous participant in the March for Life, he speculated his invitation to partake in the dinner was a result of his involvement in the well-resourced Right to Life organization on campus. His first comment?

“I’m not going to the March for Life this year,” he said matter-of-factly. “Perhaps if there were more opposition. During the civil rights movement, people were hosed down with water from fire hydrants. We’re not. Our protest just doesn’t have any sort of visual imagery. At the end of the day, we have to persuade you with words. And everyone is pretty set in stone with their views on abortion. I just don’t see the point.”

The March for Life occurs annually as a protest in Washington, D.C., where pro-life advocates gather to raise awareness about their cause. Notre Dame offers an all-expenses-paid trip for students who want to attend. They also grant coveted university-excused absences for those missing class to attend. Though I did not apply for one for my trip to the inauguration, knowing full well the result, my colleagues did try their luck to no avail.

I entreated him to go into greater detail.

“We carry signs that say ‘Stop Abortion,'” he told me. “I find it more beneficial to talk with students who maintain different views than my own and figure out where we have common ground. If I can get my guys together and he can get his guys together and we can all find one policy option we agree on, then who is going to stop us from building a bipartisan coalition and getting something done about abortion?”

I was astounded. There remain people in the world who are willing to compromise?

“Too many conservative politicians in D.C. take the all or nothing approach,” he furthered. “Either they pass their entire bill, untouched, and parade their triumph, or they boycott everything until they get their way. Look at gun control. They could take a trick or two from the liberals who are taking a step by step approach to reform. First, background checks. Then they can try for limiting magazines and models.”

My peer wants to start with getting third trimester abortions banned, which account for less than one percent of all abortions performed in the U.S.. This rare and invasive procedure is tough for pro-choice supporters to defend and the photos are grotesque. Plus, there’s much scientific evidence out there that the procedure poses safety risks to the mother. And of course, the new Sundance film also explores the practice.

“We must act” came from the mouth of a leader oft compared with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the progressive thinkers of our past. But it never seemed more appropriate than when I spoke with a pro-life brother.

Click to view source of featured image.

I’m in Miami, Beach

Global warming, climate change – pick your poison but it’s definitely happening. After a wonderfully sunny and warm six days in Miami, I wondered how people could bear to live down there during the summer. When I flew home, for instance, it was 80 degrees. In January. And while that was a nice change from the snows of Lake Tahoe, it seems, well, a little hot for January.

Earlier this year The Miami Herald reported high temperatures for July, about three degrees warmer than average. But the high temperature was 77.6 degrees.

So my recommendation? Get a place to escape to in the winter, not summer, if that’s your thing. At least until the environment makes it back onto the agenda in Washington, D.C., and the other world capitals.

The view from my lunch table. Doral Golf Resort & Spa, Doral, Florida.
The view from my lunch table. Doral Golf Resort & Spa, Doral, Florida. All photos by Clara Ritger.


Bahia Mar, my hotel in Ft. Lauderdale.
Bahia Mar, my hotel in Ft. Lauderdale.
The beach of Ft. Lauderdale.
The beach of Ft. Lauderdale.
My friend's parents' place in North Miami Beach.
My friend’s parents’ place in North Miami Beach.


Flo Rida Oranges

I’ve officially decided that if you take photos with an iPad, people will look at you long enough to get the perfect photo because (a) they are wondering what the big covered rectangle object is that you are holding in front of your face and (b) once they figure out what it is you are holding, they cannot for the life of them find the camera hole.

Now, the unfortunate part of taking photos with the iPad is that they are good for one thing only: Twitter. Perhaps Apple significantly improved the photo quality in the third generation, but for the cave people like myself still using iPad2 there is no reason to post those photos on my pristine blog.

(Thus ends my engaging story for a lead. Cue photos.)

Obie the Orange Bowl Mascot. All photos by Clara Ritger.
Obie the Orange Bowl Mascot. All photos by Clara Ritger.

This guy (maybe girl) made my day. While I was running around back in the wings of the stadium, I happened across Obie and his escorts. Whipping out my camera, Obie stopped and posed for me. It turned into a great photo too.

Discover sponsored a free Flo Rida concert on South Beach the night before the game too. I headed down to catch it and discovered I could get clutch seats by waving my press badge around. Though we could only stay inside for the first three songs, it was worth the photo op and bragging rights. Plus, now I can smugly tell people that the girl on stage next to him lip-synched the whole time, and his live vocals were often overpowered by his own recorded voice. Not that I’m complaining about either, because when they did go completely bare, no background music, I was begging for auto tune.

Press cage, Discover concert series. Sunday, January 6.
Press cage, Discover concert series. Sunday, January 6.
Flo Rida, live in concert.
Flo Rida, live in concert.

Also in attendance at the concert were some of the big college football award winners. To the dismay of some of the Notre Dame fans around me, Johnny Manziel appeared on stage at the call of the announcer. I heard many students start a “Manti” chant, embittered by his loss to Mr. Football in the Heisman race. The deafening, supportive chants from Irish fans continued throughout the weekend. It took little prompting to get them started, but once they did, it became hard to get them to stop. I’d hear “Manti” a few more times that weekend.

Flo Rida in between songs. Or forgetting to lipsynch, take your pick.
Flo Rida in between songs. Or forgetting to lip-synch, take your pick.

I think I’m going to grant beach photos their own post, just because it’s winter and I’m feeling indulgent. Signing off with a shot of one South Beach club, which was hopping like the rest of them that weekend.

Ocean's Ten on South Beach. Almost as popular as The Clevelander for Notre Dame fans.
Ocean’s Ten on South Beach. Almost as popular as The Clevelander for Notre Dame fans.

Waiting two hours for your food became a fact of life. Though I could write that off, I was not so pleasant about the traffic. I went so far as to Google it, to be sure that I could blame it on Miami and not just the Notre Dame fan invasion. Though I will grant Miami reprieve for the numerous accidents I saw on my way to events – clearly that was a result of out of town drivers – overall I’d like to say “you have a serious problem” in regard to their traffic. I was a 25 minute drive from South Beach, and it took 2 hours. So, be warned if vacationing, probably best to stay near where you’re going to spend your time.