He was the “Entrepreneurial Priest”.

He took on Nixon. He took on the Pope. He backed Martin Luther King (when other white leaders wouldn’t).

And he holds the record for honorary degrees (150)

As President of the University of Notre Dame, he arguably did more for American civil rights and equal rights than any other person in history.

Here’s “Father Ted” Hesburgh:

Hesburgh Trailer

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  • My Rating: 98/100
  • IMDB Rating: 8
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: 100 (User); 82 (Critcs)

Review of Hesburgh (includes spoilers!)

“Hesburgh” is full of many shareable nuggets.

Here are some top nuggs I made note of while watching:

  • Interesting Religious Fact — Post-war, 98% of U.S. believed in God.
  • Hesburgh is appointed to the Atomic Energy Commission (for peaceful uses of atomic energy)
  • Hesburgh is appointed to the Presidential Commission on Civil Rights.
  • Ted was only home one week per year.
  • The Presidential Commission on Civil Rights, after two years, is getting nowhere. Ted asks a donor to fly them all to Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin by private jet in hopes that’s a better venue to meet. They are still not united. That’s when Father Ted figures out that there is one thing they all have in common: fishing. They all catch dozens of fish. Suddenly, they all agreed on 11 of 12 recommendations for President Eisenhower.
  • Ann Landers, Jewish, would go to Father Hesburgh for advice for herself and her readers.
  • Father Ted pilots the first Peace Corps program for JFK (in Chile).
  • LBJ pushed the civil rights legislation through Congress. Hesburgh: “He literally blackmailed everybody he had something on. And he had something on just about everybody. Johnson was absolutely ruthless in this pursuit. You don’t read about it in history books. But that’s how it happened. I know…because I was there.”
  • Martin Luther King asks Father Ted (as well as Chicago’s mayor and Archbishop (both decline to attend) to join him at Soldier Field in Chicago for a rally of up to 100,000. Father Ted shows up and speaks and holds hands with Dr. King. 11 days later LBJ signs the Commission’s recommendations into law.
  • Father Ted refuses to have the Vatican dictate what Notre Dame or other Catholic institutions taught. He said “There must be no outlawed books or subjects.” He and other Catholic University leaders wrote “The Land O’Lakes Statement” to state their position on what they’d teach. Vatican advisors didn’t like that.
  • Nixon doesn’t make it easy on Hesburgh and team to make progress on civil rights.Nixon tells Haldeman, after a press conference criticizing the Civil Rights Commission, “I thought it was well to hit Hesburgh…” Nixon is worried about losing the Southern voters.
  • Hesburgh writes a New York Times piece in which (referring to Nixon and the president’s team) he says “Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat its mistakes”. Nixon tells Ehrlichman to “demand a resignation” from Hesburgh. “And if he doesn’ [resign], let’s kill the goddamned agency.”Nixon gets reelected in a landslide.
  • Hesburgh does eventually resign though claims he was “fired” by Nixon’s team. Everyone wants to know the story but he keeps mum.
  • Next, Hesburgh focuses on women’s rights including admitting women to Notre Dame. In 1972, ND admits undergraduate women, the same year Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school, became law.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc