Will Cheney steal attention from graduates?

The Salt Lake Tribune reported yesterday (03/22/07) that Vice President Dick Cheney was scheduled to speak at BYU’s campus-wide commencement ceremony in April.  Today that story was confirmed by spokespersons for both Cheney and the university:

"An invitation for Vice President Cheney to speak at BYU’s April commencement was extended by members of the First Presidency of the LDS Church in their capacities as chair and vice chairs of the BYU Board of Trustees," [BYU spokeswoman Carri] Jenkins said.

"The vice president is very excited to be invited to BYU and participate in the commencement ceremony," [Cheney spokeswoman Megan] McGinn said.

Already, the Deseret Morning News is reporting that several students and Utah residents are planning a large-scale protest of Cheney’s visit.

Political science professor Darren Hawkins said it’s possible the visit of an unpopular vice president in the midst of the Iraq war and in the wake of the Scooter Libby trial might even spark a protest by BYU students, a rarity on the conservative campus.

"He may be the most unpopular vice president in history and he may be the most unpopular person in America right now, so, yes, where else could he go?" Hawkins said. "It doesn’t surprise me the White House called back and wondered if BYU would take him. I seriously doubt he’d be welcome at a lot of other universities."

The first of no doubt many letters to be written on the issue appeared in the Readers’ Forum of today’s (03/23/07) Daily Universe:

As a BYU alumnus, I was shamed to read in the Salt Lake Tribune this morning, and hear on KSL, that BYU might host Vice President Dick Cheney for graduation on April 26. I am sad my school, which stands for honor, truth and light in my view, would host a politician who has so frequently demonstrated his lack of ethics, morality and respect for human rights.

This is not what BYU stands for, and Cheney’s actions do not coincide with my LDS beliefs. I would hope the institution will re-think this decision. If this visit does occur I would participate in, and help organize, a public protest of this visit in Provo itself. I am sure that there are thousands of Utahns who would participate with me.

Setting politics aside for a moment, Cheney is an incredibly polarizing figure these days with approval ratings in the 30 percent range (lower in most blue states; probably higher in Utah).

While BYU will undoubtedly curtail any plans for a demonstration on campus, I fear that many people will pack into the Marriott Center with the sole intention of booing or otherwise loudly protesting him. (I was present at a University Forum a few years back where White House correspondent Helen Thomas addressed the campus community, and many people did not hold back their expressions of disapproval for her left-leaning political statements. I was very embarrassed, frankly, at the very poor and discourteous behavior on display. See related viewpoints here, here, here, and here, if you’re interested.)

My greatest concern is that Cheney’s visit (and the accompanying protests) will completely overshadow the real event taking place that day—honoring BYU’s graduates. I will be "walking" (unofficially graduating) in April, and after nearly seven and a half years at BYU I confess to a little selfishness in wanting to be honored (just a little) for my accomplishments. It’s cheers and applause I wish to hear, not catcalls and boos. At least Cheney won’t be around for Friday morning’s Marriott School convocation exercises. Thankfully.

2 Responses to “Will Cheney steal attention from graduates?”

  1. So now we only have speakers who agree with our opinions on everything? We can’t tolerate someone, an elected offical of these United States, who has polarized Washington politics and generally made his opinions known, who may have something to say to the new generation of college grads. Mr Cheney may have ideas contrary to one side or the other, but he doesn’t vacillate, doesn’t lean on polls for his pronouncements and has been a pain in the posterior of many a liberal. For that reason alone, I would pay to hear him speak. I may not agree with his vision of the world, but he is certainly interesting.

  2. Well, frankly, I don’t know if you can believe anything Cheney says. He and his friends have certainly enjoyed wartime profits, and I think he has been highly influential in the Patriot Act fiasco.He may be a proud conservative or he may be just a crook. History will tell.

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