House Speaker John Boehner steared clear of politics on Saturday while delivering the commencement speech at The Catholic University of America, opting instead to focus on hailing the virtues of humility, patience, and faith.
Boehner, a devout Roman Catholic, recalled emotionally his own fond memories of attending a Catholic high school and university. He shared about his football coach, Gerry Faust, at Moeller High School in Ohio who had the team kneel and pray before every meeting, practice, and game.
Faust taught his students, Boehner recalled, that “there is nothing you can’t achieve if you’re willing to work hard enough and make the sacrifices necessary to succeed,” according to The Catholic University of America, based in Washington, D.C.
And hard work and sacrifice require three important components: humility, patience, and faith, said the Republican from Ohio. Humility, however, is the most important, Boehner stressed.
“No one who succeeds in life does it alone. You must be willing to lean on others, listen to others, and yes, love others,” said the 10-term congressman, who shed tears at several points during the ceremony.
As personal testimony about Coach Faust’s lesson, Boehner recalled that when he lost favor with House Republicans in 1998, it was hard work based on humility, patience and faith that brought him through the hard times and allowed him to work his way back up the leadership ladder.
On the day that he was voted to be Speaker of the House, Boehner recalled tearfully, Faust had called him to tell him “you can do it.”
Boehner kept his speech personal and faith-focused and did not mention the current heated debate about the 2012 budget.
Last week, dozens of Roman Catholic priests, nuns, theologians, and social justice leaders signed an open letter to Boehner accusing him of supporting budget cuts to the poor that go against Catholic teachings.
“Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress,” the Catholic leaders charged. “The fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policy makers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it.”
Critics take issue with the 2012 budget proposal that would cut Maternal and Child Health grants, the Women and Infants and Children Nutrition program, food stamps, Medicaid and Medicare.
But Boehner, during a press conference last Thursday, said in response, “I believe the actions that I’ve taken in my years in Congress uphold the values of my faith.”
Several graduates on Saturday wore signs that read, “Where’s the compassion, Mr. Boehner?” according to The Washington Post. But other than such quiet protests, the crowd at CUA was respectful and supportive of Boehner during his speech.