Sunday, April 29, 2007


Let's forget for a moment that he shot a man in the head (it WAS a lawyer, after all). And forget that he's the less-popular VP to one of the most unpopular Presidents in this country's history. I can even let go of the fact that several members of his staff are currently under criminal investigation and have been removed from their positions. All that aside, he's just kinda old and creepy.

But, for some reason, the First Presidency of our church decided to invite him to speak at the recent commencement ceremony at BYU.

This, naturally, caused quite the uproar. Students have been pretty upset that the church would invite someone who's so obviously connected to one party to come to such an important event. This girl I know (I can't remember her name right now but she was in my ward and would come to church with this amazing Something-About-Mary gelled hair every week) actually organized a sort of counter-commencement at UVSC for all the students who would rather hear speeches from the Green Party's Ralph Nader and other, less-important Democrats. Ashley Sanders! That's her name. Anyway, everyone's been asking me, "So, what's your opinion on this whole Dick Cheney thing?"

So here it is:

Probably not the best PR move by the church. Then again, who really cares who's speaking at some university's commencement? Does anyone at BYU know who's speaking at anyone else's commencement? Does anyone outside of BYU know about Dick Cheney's coming? I doubt it.

Also, protests? Really? When did those ever work? I mean like since the Boston Tea Party. And I'm only making that an exception because it's famous, not because I know whether it worked or not. For all I know it just pissed off the Brits and then the Indian-clad colonists had to pay for all that tea they ruined. Not to mention the townspeople then had to throw a LOT of lemon and sugar into their harbor the next morning. But see, this is what I don't get. To me it seems that the intent of the protest is simply to annoy The Man to the point where he acquiesces. Good plan, except that it only ends up making The Man upset, which prompts him to stand his ground even more obdurately than before (Mrs. Stevens would be so proud of the way I'm using all of my 11th grade vocab words in this paragraph). And today's protesters (at least the protest organizers) are aware of this. So the real object of the protest is not change or dialogue. It's just attention. It's the toddler who's learned that crying sometimes gets him what he wants not because it's what Mom thinks he needs, or even because Mom is tired of hearing his cries, but rather because Mom doesn't like the way all the other Moms are looking at her. It seems a very unethical way of going about social change. Coming at the problem from the rear.

Also, Dick Cheney is not Vice President of the Republicans. He's Vice President of the United States. It's not like you get to just not recognize a President you didn't vote for. This isn't Mexico. Yes, he's a Republican, but he didn't come here in the name of the GOP. He came here in the name of the Presidency of this fine nation. I doubt his speech had anything to do with keeping the illegal immigrants out or how Utah is the best state because it's the only one that has a law that explicitly allows students to carry concealed weapons on public college campuses (I'm not making this up). Just as I'm pretty sure the speech by Darth Vader or whatever his name is was not about legalizing gay marijuana (I decided partway through typing those two ideas just now that I would make them just one idea for simplicity's sake). I imagine both speeches were just the same recycled boilerplate: "You are the future...blah blah blah...worked hard to get here...make a difference in the world...smartest and best generation...crap crap crap." Just like my high school graduation, except without everyone quoting Semisonic's "Closing Time."

My point is this: a graduation ceremony is one time that should definitely not be divided by bipartisan politics. If it had been Rush Limbaugh or Michael Moore, I would probably have been right there supporting the protesters. But it wasn't. It was the Vice President, and I think we can show some respect, even if we don't agree with his politics or his age or his hunting practices. Ashley Sanders and the others who helped her in her "celebration of alternatives" really missed the boat, in my opinion. This day should have been about the students, and the future and making a difference in the world, and all that crap--not about whether we agree with everything that the speaker might have said or done or voted for in any other situation. I hope that next time something like this occurs, people can just swallow their pride and stop trying to cause headaches for the administration. That's all I have to say about that.


Distinguishing Preoccupation said...

You bring up some really valid points. I still have mixed feelings about him coming to give the commencement speech, but nevertheless, I really understand your angle. I don't like a lot of the things the Bush admin has done, but I'd still shake the hand of the president if given the opportunity.

iwonder said...

"So the real object of the protest is not change or dialogue. It's just attention."

Well, perhaps, but maybe it is also about showing that there are differences of opinion at BYU. I don't know how else students and faculty can respectfully show that not everyone agrees with what is going on. And I do not believe that protesting, i.e. expressing dissent is in any way disrespectful.

Whether one agrees with the actual politics involved, I believe that it is very important that people both inside and outside of the church see that many different opinions are tolerated and respected. I think that more harm than good comes from presenting a false united front to the world and to the church.

At BYU especially, and in Utah more generally, there is too much conformity on issues that do not require it (and too little conformity on the really important aspects of the church).

I think that the protest and alternative commencements were ways of showing that we don't all have to be republican supporters, and even if we are, we don't have to agree and blindly support all that the president, vice-president, or any other elected official does.

Please don't be offended, I am not implying that you are that way at all. However, I do think that most people would be able to agree that there are many in the church (and in my personal experience, at BYU) who blindly follow without stopping to think for themselves. This applies to both political matters as well as spiritual and church matters.

Weston said...

Hey Robbie,

Call me some time?

As a participator in the commencement, graduate of BYU class of 2007, and a degree holder in political science, I feel my thoughts are very important to this post.

I think I’m coming down with something…

The bottom line is that it was a commencement speech. You can have anyone speak at those. But why did the church ask the VP. Well, for one he is the VP. How cool is that? Not all can say the VP spoke at their graduation. Another reason is because his wife’s parents or grandparents (I can’t remember which) graduated from BYU academy. That’s pretty cool if you ask me. His in-laws have a deep tie to Mormon pioneer culture. Now I am not saying he is LDS, but it is always neat to get in touch with your ancestry.

There was no, absolutely none at all, political facets to his speech. Should there have been? Of course not. If there were, I probably would have walked out, or dumped ice cream all over the floor. True story. The speech was harmless, and it was done they way it should have been done. I rather enjoyed it.

So in regards to the protestors and the BYU demo-craps staging an uproar, it was preposterous. I am pretty sure they felt like donkeys when they all went to the Cheney’s commencement and realized that he had some neat things to say. Now I didn’t go to the Nader speech, which in my opinion is one of the most influential men in US history, so I can’t comment much about that little giddy-up.

If I had a choice of going to a political speech from either person I would choose Nader. I think he has more to say. But Cheney was good for the commencement being that he was more academically inclined. So it all worked out in the end, and there really shouldn’t have been a fuss about it in the first place. No ones talking about it now, except for me.

вџн said...

The fact that there enough smurf images to work with the zany names you come up with for what kind of smurf you are (at any given moment) is amazing.