May 15, 2016

SOUTH BEND, IN — Former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today addressed the commencement ceremony of the University of Notre Dame and gave brief remarks to graduates in accepting the university’s Laetare Medal, awarded jointly this year to Boehner and Vice President Joe Biden.  Speaker Boehner’s remarks (as prepared) are below:

Father Jenkins, Vice President Biden, graduates…I’m truly honored and privileged to be standing here today – just a regular guy who used to have a big job. 

It’s been six months now since I left public service. That’s given me some time to reflect. 

And something occurred to me a few months ago about the nature of the difficult task we call governing:

Governing is the art of the possible.

Politicians are constantly being pushed to promise the impossible. And this being a presidential election year, you’ve been hearing a lot of impossible promises.

But governing isn’t about doing the impossible. Governing, at 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.

My greatest worry about our system is that we will lose the ability to distinguish between the two. 

The fact of the matter is, you can find common ground with the other side without compromising on your principles and core beliefs.

Our democracy, in fact, requires it from time to time.

And our system of government would break down completely if not for people on both sides of the fence who understand that distinction.

Ladies and gentlemen, Vice President Joe Biden is one of those people. 

Joe and I disagreed on many things during my time in office. Make no mistake about it. 

But even as we disagreed, we always understood the need to keep looking for the things we could agree on.

Mr. Vice President, it’s an honor to share a stage with you again, my friend.

It was almost eight months ago, Joe, that you and I were seated together in the House chamber behind His Holiness, Pope Francis, for the first address ever by a Pope to a Joint Meeting of the United States Congress. 

I tried for more than 20 years to bring a Pope to the U.S. Capitol.

They said it couldn’t be done; he’s not just a head of state, but the head of a Church.  It’s too controversial.

My view was that America could handle it.  And things worked out pretty well. 

As many know, that day also turned out to be the way I closed the book on my speakership and a nearly 25-year run in the U.S. House.

I had already decided I was leaving, but as I recognized only in retrospect, the Holy Spirit, working through Pope Francis, gave me the grace, strength and serenity to proceed with the plan. 

I saw an opp