(Updated 4/27/07 5:46 a.m.) Well, the evil deed is done. Dick Cheney has come and gone from BYU, been honored with a degree he didn’t deserve, and confirmed the fatal shift warned about decades ago by Brother Nibley.
So, how was it? The media coverage is just beginning. I will update it as more becomes available. Several media sources covered the graduation, the speech, the protests and the alternative commencement. For some outstanding photos, see onelowerlight here, here, and here. The photos are incredible, a couple of which he has let me borrow to post here. But, go see all of them–they’re very good.
On a campus where dissent is unusual, a few dozen people protested quietly ahead of Cheney’s arrival, holding signs reading: “Mormon for peace” and “Make soup, not war.” A handful of veterans holding a peace banner stood on a street corner off campus. “We can actually speak against this ridiculous and imperial war,” said Aaron Davis, a Vietnam veteran with two sons who have served in Iraq . . .
Opposition to Cheney’s visit has drawn national media attention because Utah Valley is a conservative stronghold where Republicans and unaffiliated registered voters who generally vote Republican outnumbered Democrats 21-to-1 at the November 2006 elections.
At least three demonstrations are targeting Cheney, and a student-organized alternative commencement featuring Ralph Nader will be held at Utah Valley State College at 7:30 p.m.
Nearly 4,000 people signed an online petition asking BYU and the church to withdraw the invitation to Cheney. The organizers of that petition said Wednesday they will present their list to the LDS Church’s Public Affairs Department next week.
The announcement that BYU would award Cheney an honorary doctorate caused an additional stir on Wednesday with some faculty and students who oppose the vice president’s politics and policies. Some said the degree adds a measure of endorsement for Cheney that made them uncomfortable and that BYU was wise not to announce the degree until late Tuesday.
“One does wonder what message BYU intends to send with this,” political science professor Darren Hawkins said. “Honorary degrees are sometimes conferred by universities to proclaim their approval of the honoree’s character and qualities, and if that’s what BYU intends to do, I disagree wholeheartedly with the award of an honorary degree. I don’t think BYU should be commending Vice President Cheney’s character or actions to anyone.
“If they intend to acknowledge his long public service, then I have less of a problem with it because it is certainly true he has risen to a high office and has a long career of public service.” BYU and LDS Church spokesman maintained the school and church are politically neutral.
The vice president credited former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for getting him key political jobs that led to his involvement in four presidential administrations. “There will be people like this in your own life who keep an eye on you and reward your efforts,” Cheney said.
The vice president didn’t delve into politics and the closest he got to touching on the war in Iraq was to thank the BYU students who became military officers. Cheney made an effort to show how familiar he is with BYU and the LDS Church.
Tribune coverage on Nader’s appearance and the alternative commencement:
As part of an alternative graduation ceremony for students seeking a place away from Vice President Dick Cheney’s speech, Ralph Nader encouraged graduates and more than a thousand supporters to seek a higher road and not be enticed by material promises.
The former presidential candidate said in a press conference prior to his speech that students should not underestimate their significance as civic leaders. “Unfortunately when you’re in the top one or two percent, you tend to be enticed by jobs that can be described as ones that give you a combination of trivia and material well-being,” Nader said.
He discouraged students from using computer science degrees to develop “silly or violent video games” and warned against becoming physicists or chemists to make chemical, biological or other weapons for munitions corporations. Nader lambasted Cheney and praised the students who were courageous enough to speak out, even in the reddest county in the nation.
“Out East, the media thinks if BYU students are protesting, then the situation has to be pretty bad,” Nader said. “And it is. You’re dealing with the most impeachable regimes ever on most fronts.” Nader added that the students are reflecting a sense of gravity far in advance of their elders at the university and around the country.
The Tribune on the protests:
Several hours before Dick Cheney even arrived on campus, about 300 demonstrators were warming up the rhetoric at a place long considered a haven for conservatism: LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University. Whether protesting the Iraq War and Vice President Cheney’s choice as BYU commencement speaker, or countering with messages in support of President Bush’s No. 2, about 200 protesters has taken up posts on three streets corners surrounding the campus entrance by 2 p.m. They endured a steady stream of drive-by disparagements.
Though nationally controversial, the vice president — to speak at BYU’s commencement at 4 p.m. — maintains plenty of support in this heavily Republican community. But the protesters – a mix of students, faculty, veterans and community members – appeared unaffected by calls from passers-by of “Cheney for president,” and “Go Bush!”
Dan Kennelly, a Korean War veteran from Sandy, acknowledged that he and other protesters were outnumbered in Utah County. “But we’re going to try,” he said. “If someone doesn’t want to listen, that’s fine, but we’ll try.” BYU student and war dissenter Diana Smith said she’s used to being a minority voice at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints school, “but while many may disagree, it is usually respectful,” she said.
In a later column on the protests, Tribune columnist Rebecca Walsh quipped:
Brigham Young University’s College Democrats “protested” silently and then dispersed before the vice president could see them. The Alumni Association put goodie bags with pretzels and the university’s famous mint brownies under each of the 20,000 seats in the Marriott Center. A wholesome “road show” of football highlights, a cappella singers and modestly-dressed dancers entertained the restless crowd. And when Cheney finally arrived, the 6,300 graduates and their families gave the veep a louder whoop than LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley.
That’s pretty sad, more and louder acknowledgment for the most corrupt Vice President since Spiro Agnew, than the Prophet of the Living God. Only at BYU could that happen–go figure:
“I know what a protest is supposed to look like,” said Diane Bailey, president of BYU’s College Democrats. “I know that won’t work here.” Instead of allowing the raucous ranting and raving that accompanies most anti-war rallies, Bailey organized a quiet protest with blue-and-white dove cutouts and signs that said, “Congrats, grads” and “Go forth and establish peace.”
A petite blue-eyed blonde who has trouble getting to a second date because of her politics, Bailey turned down a request from “The Daily Show” for a field report, worried the show’s producers would make fun of her school or her faith. She leaves today for an internship in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. But Thursday, she led 100 protesters in a rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” before sending them off to listen to the vice president and Ralph Nader. A few hecklers yelling, “I like Dick,” or “I hate Dick,” was as bad as it got.
Rolly’s column is also pretty funny:
Graduates were required to carry their gowns over their arms instead of wearing them into the Marriott Center. BYU brass said it was for security reasons, but campus police sources say it was at least partially in response to a rumor that some graduates planned to wear hunting vests under their robes to taunt Cheney . . .
While the anti-Cheney crowd settled for slogans and signs, the pro-Cheney group had a Dixieland band and speeches from dignitaries. Frankly, where are you going to find a Democratic dignitary in Utah County? . . .
A list of BYU fun facts distributed by the school include this statistic: BYU sells 34,450 gallons of chocolate milk in a year. So how many cups of coffee does BYU sell in a year? (That was a trick question).
The Tribune also has a photo gallery of the ceremony as well as the protests here. There will be updated media coverage in the morning, which I will update as it becomes available.
Provo Daily Herald on the protests with photos:
For two hours today, protesters marched and chanted, students held signs and drivers honked horns and yelled — some even made profane gestures — at the intersection of Bulldog Boulevard and Canyon Road.
The object of the madness: Vice President Dick Cheney, aka the commencement speaker for Brigham Young University this afternoon. There were two protests — one on BYU’s campus, one across the street organized by Veterans for Peace.
From noon until 2 p.m. a semi-silent protest showed that not everyone at the conservative school agreed with BYU’s choice of commencement speaker.
“This is really refreshing to me,” said former BYU professor Jim Catano. “Certainly in my time, there was nothing like this.”
Catano taught Italian from 1976 to 1980 at the school, and said he remembers a commencement speech by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller that was met by support, not a protest.
The group of about 100 on campus got a permit from the school to protest Cheney’s speech until 2 p.m. BYU security officers were also on hand, making sure the protest stayed peaceful.
Daily Herald on Cheney’s speech, also with photos:
Vice President Dick Cheney told BYU graduates on Thursday afternoon not to give up, and when opportunity comes along, take it.
Cheney didn’t focus on politics in his commencement speech at the Marriott Center. Instead, he talked about the course of his life, his wife’s Mormon pioneer ancestors and gratitude.
A quick photo taste from onelowerlight blog, reposted with permission (make certain you go see them all over here). Double click below for full size.