Two of the students who walked out of the commencement ceremony at the University of Notre Dame as Vice President Mike Pence began giving his commencement address, told CNN that they did so as an act of protest because the Vice President of the United States made them feel “unsafe.”
Talking to CNN host Brooke Baldwin on Monday, Luis Miranda and Aniela Tyksinski, said that the walkout was organized primarily because several students and families “have been specifically targeted” by Pence’s policies.
“We felt the need to walk out because we wanted to stand here to protect human dignity,” Miranda said. “We wanted to have solidarity with those who are most vulnerable of us, and also to seek justice for them.”
“We essentially have classmates, family members, and friends who were either with us sitting down there, or were also in the stands who have been specifically targeted by the policies of Mike Pence either as a governor or as a president (sic) directly,” Miranda continued.
According to Miranda, the students, by walking out, were showing solidarity with “undocumented Americans” and members of the LGBT community. Miranda further said that Pence’s appearance at the ceremony felt “inappropriate” and the students walked out to stand “with them, and for them.”
Tyksinski reiterated Miranda’s stance that undocumented immigrants and members of the LGBT community were in her heart as she was walking out.
Adding to that, Tyksinski explained that Pence made a lot of students feel “unsafe” and that a commencement speech was not a suitable setting for “this kind of political discourse.”
“The walkout was in response to the fact that members of our own community felt unwelcome, uncomfortable, and even unsafe,” she said. “This was not the appropriate event for this kind of political discourse. This should have been an event for all graduates and all of their family members.”
While Miranda and Tyskinski did not care to explain what exactly the offending “political discourse” was, Baldwin asked if the students thought they were unwilling to listen to viewpoints other than theirs, and actually feeding into the stereotype that colleges and universities had become “too liberal.”
“I cannot speak to the stereotype, but yes, there are difficulties over free speech,” Miranda said. “It’s hard to have these conversations and we agree that free speech is a very important thing and that we shouldn’t be shutting it out. We need to be welcoming it.”