Dennis Brown | April 20, 2020
When Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to receive an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame, it came at what on the surface would seem to be an unusual event: a special convocation on Dec. 9, 1935, recognizing the evolving independence of the Philippine Islands.
In fact, however, the University had long taken an abiding interest in the Philippines due to the predominance of Catholics in that commonwealth. As Notre Dame historian Rev. Arthur Hope, C.S.C., put it in his chronicle of the University’s first 100 years: “The fate of these people, Catholic for centuries under Spanish rule, was followed with deep concern after the Spanish-American War. It gave great satisfaction to American Catholics to review the benignant rule that had left the Filipinos their religious liberties and brought them an undreamed of measure of material progress.”
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