Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House were both honored by University of Notre Dame on Sunday. The University awarded the two political leaders the Laetare Medal, the highest honor at the University.
Notre Dame President Reverend John Jenkins said that the two were chosen to highlight politicians from both parties that could work together “where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership.”
Despite a fractious political environment, you have each built collegial relationships with those with whom you disagree, even disagree vehemently,” Father Jenkins said of Biden and Boehner. “In careers marked by patriotism, perseverance, hard work, courage, and sometimes tragedy, you have each found strength and guidance in your faith.”
Biden and Boehner are both Catholics.
Speaker Boehner spoke about working with members, like Biden, whom he disagreed with, “Governing is the art of the possible. Politicians are constantly being pushed to promise the impossible, but governing isn’t about promising the impossible. Governing, in its essence, is the art of the possible. Governing requires us to look for common ground where it can be found — without compromising on our principles.”
“As Speaker, I always drew a distinction between ‘compromise’ and ‘common ground’ because I truly believe they are two different things, and the fact of the matter is, you can find common ground with people on the other side without compromising on your core beliefs. Ladies and gentlemen, Vice President Joe Biden is one of those people.”
Boehner had said this message before. In 2010, the then-incoming Speaker told CBS News that of compromise, “I reject the word.” He said that governing “means finding common ground” and made sure to differentiate common ground and compromise.
Biden then went up to speak and accept what he called “the most meaningful award I have ever received in my life.” Biden offered a reflection on the day’s state of politics, saying “it has recently become a blood sport full of invective.” He also said that he has “not seen it like this” during his over forty year long career in public service.
“We used to treat each other with respect,” Biden said, “John and I aren’t old school. We’re the American school … progress only comes when you deal with your opponent with respect. Listening as well as talking.”