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Some Saint Joseph graduates leave to protest Santorum

Monday, May 19, 2003

By Bill Bergstrom, The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- About one in every eight graduates walked out of Sunday's commencement at Saint Joseph's University before the keynote address by Sen. Rick Santorum, who recently infuriated gay groups and others with derogatory remarks about homosexual behavior.

U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., yesterday addressed about 700 graduates at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. About 100 graduates walked out the commencement exercises because of Santorum's recent controversial comments about homosexuals. (AP photo)

Santorum, the Senate's third-ranking Republican, didn't mention the walkout or the controversy directly.

"We are all called to love one another, even people we disagree with, even people who hate us for what we believe," he said.

Students were offered an opportunity to leave before Santorum was introduced to receive an honorary degree and make his speech, and about 100 graduates walked out amid competing boos and applause.

Some students had urged the Jesuit university to rescind Santorum's invitation after he likened gay behavior to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery in an April 7 interview with The Associated Press. He later said he intended the remarks as a legal analysis and didn't intend to comment on individual lifestyles.

"Senator Santorum and I are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum," said graduate Sara Foglesong, among those who walked out. "I am not incestuous. I am not a bigamist. I just happen to be bisexual. It offended me."

Across the street, Dennis Heffernan led a group of three counter-demonstrators. "I belong to a pro-life group, and Rick is a pro-life person," said Heffernan, of Philadelphia.

In another commencement speech Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney told University of Missouri graduates to look for "the unexpected opportunities" in life.

Before graduates of the Columbia school's College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Cheney said he had retired from public service when he agreed to head George W. Bush's search for a running mate.

"If you're ever asked to head up an important search committee -- say yes," Cheney said, drawing laughter. "That decision three years ago set me on a path ... this seems to be a pattern in my life: the unexpected opportunities."

Former President Clinton, in a speech at Mississippi's Tougaloo College, blasted President Bush for his opposition to affirmative action in college admissions and accused him of neglecting domestic issues.

"I supported the president when he asked for authority to stand up against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but we can't be forever strong abroad if we don't keep getting better at home," Clinton told the crowd at the historically black school near Jackson.

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