Harrison Butker’s commencement address holds an important message for men

2 mins read
Courtesy of Benedictine College

Harrison Butker’s commencement address at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, has attracted a great deal of attention from the media. USA Today described the speech, saying, “Kansas City Chiefs placekicker Harrison Butker used his platform as a commencement speaker at Benedictine College last weekend to attack Pride Month and transgender people, the coronavirus pandemic, while also telling women to get back in the kitchen.” But there’s more to this speech than the headlines and soundbites will allow.

Harrison Butker
Courtesy of Benedictine College

To be sure, Butker’s speech was political. It included pointed and fiery attacks. He aimed stark criticisms at President Joe Biden, particularly condemning the president’s pro-abortion platform. “Our own nation is led by a man who publicly and proudly proclaims his Catholic faith, but at the same time is delusional enough to make the Sign of the Cross during a pro-abortion rally,” Butker said.

And Butker had criticisms for the Church, too. He lamented the personal comfort and security many bishops and priests seek rather than teaching difficult truths. “It seems that the only time you hear from your bishops is when it’s time for the annual appeal, whereas we need our bishops to be vocal about the teachings of the Church, setting aside their own personal comfort and embracing their cross,” he said.

Challenging the devaluation of men

But whether or not you agree with the tone or content of Butker’s speech, it would be a mistake to overlook the speech’s most powerful segment. Butker challenged the young men listening to the speech, saying, “To the gentlemen here today, part of what plagues our society is this lie that’s been told to you that men are not necessary in the home or in our communities.” These words strike at the heart of a critical issue facing our society: the devaluation of the role of men, particularly in the family. The cultural narrative that men are expendable in domestic and community settings is false. It is deeply harmful, and we’re seeing the evidence all around us.

Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis (left), Harrison Butker and Board Chair Michael Kuckelman.

Butker’s address goes further to highlight the consequences of this societal shift. “This absence of men in the home is what plays a large role in the violence we see all around the nation,” he said. Butker’s observation is not merely anecdotal; it is supported by extensive research. Studies have shown that fatherless homes are often correlated with higher rates of youth violence, academic challenges and emotional struggles. By emphasizing the necessity of men in the home, Butker echoes the Church’s advocacy for strong, involved fathers and their crucial role in nurturing well-rounded, morally grounded children.

Offering solutions

The speech not only focused on the problem but also offered a solution. Butker urged young men to “be unapologetic in your masculinity. Fight against the cultural emasculation of men. Do hard things. Never settle for what is easy.” Butker’s call to action is a powerful reminder that true masculinity is not about dominance or aggression but resilience, responsibility and virtue. It aligns with the Catholic understanding of masculinity, which celebrates men as protectors, leaders and role models in faith.

In our Catholic tradition, the example of St. Joseph is the witness par excellence of authentic masculinity. St. Joseph, a humble carpenter and the foster father of Jesus, embodies the virtues of hard work, integrity and unwavering faith. He protected and provided for Mary and Jesus, demonstrating that true masculinity involves self-sacrifice, dedication and love.

Butker’s speech is causing waves. It was meant to. And I hope people are thinking about what he said. His words call us to a higher standard. I hope young men take his message to heart. I want them to strive to build a culture that produces virtuous men for the betterment of our families, our Church and our world.

Father Patrick Briscoe

Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, is a Dominican friar and the editor of Our Sunday Visitor. Along with his Dominican brothers, he is host of the podcast Godsplaining and a co-author of "Saint Dominic’s Way of Life: A Path to Knowing and Loving God." He is also the author of the OSV seasonal devotional, "My Daily Visitor."