Graduation Day, 2007

April_2007_peace-signs-7289e-cropped-350-pixVP Cheney’s speaks at BYU’s commencement later today (at 4pm). At noon BYU students and faculty demonstrated in a “Go Forth – Establish Peace” rally. It was held at the west entrance to campus, at the “Enter to Learn – Go Forth to Serve” sign.

In general, it was focused on peace. The most prominent signs were 10’ tall scrolls with Peace written in 28 languages. Some of the other signs were:

“Support this: “Therefore, Renounce war and proclaim peace. D&C 98:16”
“If we’re going to fight a war, let it be a war on poverty”
“1/2 the world lives on less than $2 a day”
There were a few signs that targeted Cheney such as, “Was it Divine Inspiration to Vote Bush/Cheney…or just Temporary Insanity.”

Another example (shown in the photo) was the sign “Torture is Treason” placed next to a black-robed figure with his arms extended and face down.
April_2007_torture-is-treason-7278-cropped-240-pixsThere seemed to be about 60 people and 40 or so signs at the time I dropped in.
A fair number of cars going by honked in support, some passersby yelled out support, some yelled out, in apparent disagreement with the rally, statements such as, “USA! USA!” “God Bless America!” and “Losers!”

Across the street the “Veterans for Peace” were holding a smaller, separate demonstration. Ten to fifteen men were holding signs and speaking with a bullhorn. Some of there signs were:

“You lied, they died.”
“Cheney= Gadianton — Obvious!”
“Support the warrior, not the war”
“Nobody has emboldened the insurgents more than President Bush.”

A couple of the men in that demonstration engaged in a little “mission creep.” One guy with a “Utah Minuteman” cap on had a sign that read, “No borders, no constitution.” Until I read the lettering on his cap I had a difficult time figuring out his message.

At the Provo Library (the renovated BYU Academy building on 500 N. University), the College Republicans (I think) sponsored a 12-2pm pro-Cheney rally. They had advertised free food, but I didn’t see any of that. I dropped by twice, at 12:00 and about 1:00, and saw about 15 and 40 people, respectively. University Avenue was lined with U.S. flags (every 5 meters) on both sides of road.
I missed Cheney’s speech at the graduation ceremony due to a child’s activity, but attended the Alternative Commencement with student speeches and Ralph Nader, former Amnesty International director Jack Healy, and former U.S. Senate candidate Pete Ashdown as invited speakers. I found the two students’ and Jack Healy’s speech the most interesting, along with Gabe Dominguez’ (Shake Your Peace) song about his experience protesting the war in NYC.
Around 1100 people attended the event, faculty and students walked in the procession (I was taking a child to the restroom so don’t have a good count of the number walking).

As with the rallies earlier in the day, there were many photographers and film videographers present, and I would expect there will be a documentary (or several) out soon. I’ll be interested to learn the details on claims I’ve heard that the Alternative Commencement group couldn’t find any high schools or other venues in Provo that would allow the event, and that some Provo business said they would “blacklist” students that walked in the alternative procession (Joe Vogel has posts on these claims here and here). I find the latter hard to believe, unless it’s just a couple of small places.

A benefit of holding the alternative commencement at UVSC is that the McKay Events center is adjacent to the baseball stadium. Before the commencement we snacked on some decent stadium hot dogs, and afterwards, we were able to catch the last inning of UVSC’s 8-5 win over the University of Washington.

I had heard some talk of possible additional protest activities (students wearing orange hunting vests at the Cheney speech, a mock over the truthfulness of Cheney’s statements made about collaboration by Iraq’s Hussein and the 9/11 perpetrators, and a diploma-burning event to protest the honorary degree). But, I have heard no reports any of these occuring, and assume they didn’t. My guess is that the other demonstrations and the alternative commencement provided enough voice to the anti-Cheney sentiment that there wasn’t enough motivation to carry out (what seem to me to be) more extreme statements.

Some news articles describing the above events:
Shurtleff blasts ‘Iraqi Rocky’ and ‘Hezbollah Harry’ at BYU rally (Salt Lake Tribune)
Cheney demonstrators follow BYU conduct rules, but passers-by less civil (Salt Lake Tribune)
Nader challenges decision to invite v.p. (Deseret News)
Cheney encourages BYU graduates to be ready for the future (Provo Daily Herald, includes link to audio recording of Cheney’s speech)
Quiet Protest Greets Vice President Cheney at BYU (NPR radio segment)
A detailed photo essay by OneLowerLight


  1. Costanza says:

    Bait and switch with the free food huh? Just like Republicans :)

  2. Latter-day guy says:

    The speech was pretty standard. Nice thoughts, good speechwriter. Not at all divisive.

  3. Re #2:

    Kinda like tax cuts.

  4. I watched the speech on the KSL website. 20 minutes of fluff, densely stirred. Usual Cheney delivery–monotonal, unenthusiastic.

    The worst part was all the cheering–gag.

  5. I was just a wee bit sorry as he named campus buildings: the H-FAC, the Swicket, the Wilk and the Marb, that he somehow managed to miss the SiFiLiCe.

  6. Ugly Mahana says:

    Unfortunately, the SFLC has been replaced with the JFSB – which I still like to call “the new SiFiLiCe.” Maybe this will catch on.

  7. And, I forgot (from my father, who spent all the Holland years working there), the SOB.

    That’s the Smoot Office Building.

  8. Pretty standard commencement speech. Nothing divisive or overtly political, but nothing particularly memorable either.

    In some ways, Cheney’s speech was overshadowed by President Hinckley’s mere presence. I think many assumed that President Monson would be representing the First Presidency at the Commencement. At least in the area I was sitting in, people became very excited when President Hinckley walked in. Nobody in my vicinity seemed particularly enthused by Cheney.

  9. I grew up in Sandy, UT until I was 11. We then moved to the DC area where my parents still live today. During my whole childhood and through high school I knew of only one adult in the church who was saying anything contrary to the Right- that was my father. It warms my heart to see differing opinions and attitudes being expressed by our young people. Not that we should all be Democrats – but we should all discuss the issues in our country without the partisan rhetoric. We owe our loyalty to our God, our families and our country (where ever that may be) – not to the ass or the elephant. The future looks brighter today.

  10. Thanks for this info. The mere existence this alternative commencement has cheered me today (and made me feel a little more positive about the possiblity of my kids going there.

  11. I suppose that Pres. Hinckley attended the actual graduation, and that BYU awarded Cheney an honorary degree, helps answer any question about whether the First Presidency reluctantly accepted the Veep’s request to speak at BYU.

  12. Mark IIVI says:

    Students, faculty, family, an audience of 1100 or so, what about BYU VPs, President, Provost, department chairs, deans, etc., did you see any of them there?

  13. I too liked Healy’s speech, and his (decades long) attention to the plight of poverty experienced by many.
    For me, Nader spoke for too long, and had too many stock lines that merely repeated “corporations are bad.”

    But, I like how he finished, with an encouragement for the graduates to consider how to avoid being “trivialized” in what they choose to do.

  14. Steve Evans says:

    SA, how so? I would imagine that such things are expected of him.

  15. Jon in Austin says:

    From this AP article:

    The crowd cheered louder for Cheney than they did for church President Gordon B. Hinckley, whom Mormons consider a prophet.

    Only at BYU… *sigh*

    Way to step up to the plate Utah County.

  16. Count me as baffled why a protest against Cheney and the war would be greeted with counter-protesting cries of “USA! USA!” Because, what, the VP and his war are synonymous with the USA? Oh dear.

    (In Britain, if the 5 people who support the war wanted to make that point, they wouldn’t begin chanting football songs: “En-ger-land, En-ger-land, En-ger-land.”)

  17. Jon in Austin,
    Sign, indeed. This whole thing is a huge kick in the teeth to many of us.

  18. I suspect that these protestors have probably done more today and during the past 3 weeks to improve outside perception of BYU than the Comm Dept probably managed to effect during the past 30 years. For those who were there, please don’t feel any need to limit your comments, I for one, perhaps somewhat pathetically, have a great nostalgia for the much less worthy attempts made in similar struggles during my years at the Y.

  19. Peter LLC says:

    This whole thing is a huge kick in the teeth to many of us


    As far as the warm welcome, the teary sobs of joy, the cheering (I know, I know, all the celebrity excitement about the office of the VP is hard to resist) are genuine expressions of the people in attendance at the even, I say, “Knock yourself out, folks.”

    But what bugs me are the comments from some quoted in the media who are concerned about making sure that the world knows BYU/Mormons/all household pets/most single-celled organisms are solidy behind the Veep, that they, not the “vocal minority,” speak for us as a group:

    “We are just here to show there’s a lot of support for the vice president in Provo,” said [a] BYU student […] “We wanted people to know that the vocal minority is not the majority.” AP

  20. Did you guys even watch the commencement? I wasn’t there, but I watched it on television, and the impression I got was that the graduates were mainly just giddy to be graduating. Yeah they cheered for Cheney and they cheered when he mentioned President Bush, but they also cheered when he mentioned BYU’s sports teams. In my opinion it wasn’t all that different from the alternative commencement, where the crowd cheered Nader and all of his political rhetoric, including a cheap shot at Cheney after previous speeches had called for compassion, sincerely listening to those you don’t agree with, and making your enemies your friends. Nader’s political posturing (which included a critical comment about Church leadership–not a nice thing to criticize the Church leaders of college students who have paid you 12,000 to speak to them) wasn’t any better.

    Pete Ashdown, on the other hand–now there’s a real speaker. He knew his audience and he actually understood what the alternative commencement was about–encouraging alternative voices rather than trashing people you don’t agree with. And he spoke for free. Too bad no one would have paid the alternative commencement any attention if they’d just asked Ashdown to speak.

    Oh, and I think that AP press release misrepresents the audience response. You have to take into account when the cheering occurred (i.e. context) and the fact that in our culture we don’t consider cheering to be particularly reverent. The AP press release is equating cheering with regard, approval, or respect (or something like that), and I don’t think that’s a fair assumption.

  21. Yeah, we aren’t prone to “cheer” for the President of the Church.

  22. I was there. I didn’t have a tool to measure volume, nor did I time the cheering, but I think the VP cheering was about the same as the President Hinckley cheering. Both were quite long, loud, and sustained. If the cheering were longer for the VP, I don’t think anybody who understands Mormons would think that was because we like the VP better than the prophet. Rather it was a show of support for the guy because other people were claiming he was evil, etc.

    And yes, I think President Hinckley deciding to go (which was not announced prior to the event) was a signal. President Hinckley values courtesy and politeness and his presence showed both towards the VP and encouraged others to do the same.

    Cheney’s talk was fine and short and apparently far less political than the ones at the alternative commencement (which is only to be expected).

  23. Steve (#15), my comment assumes that Pres. Hinkley doens’t go to every commencement (for this one, the news article beforehand was that a member of the FP and Board of Trustees would attend), and that BYU doesn’t award an honorary degree to every speaker. If the latter is the usual, I would agree awarding the degree wouldn’t convey much.

  24. But what bugs me are the comments from some quoted in the media who are concerned about making sure that the world knows BYU/Mormons/all household pets/most single-celled organisms are solidy behind the Veep, that they, not the “vocal minority,” speak for us as a group:

    “We are just here to show there’s a lot of support for the vice president in Provo,” said [a] BYU student […] “We wanted people to know that the vocal minority is not the majority.

    But isn’t the comment correct? Doesn’t the majority support the VP, or at a minimum disagree with the protests against him? If so then what is wrong with clarifying that fact given that most articles are going to be focusing on the protests?

    The AP article title I saw was: “Cheney Draws Protests Even at BYU”. That tends to hide the overall support that he enjoys there, I don’t see the problem with setting the record straight as far as whether or not most BYU students thought Cheney’s presence appropriate.

    From the article:

    Outside, the protesters on campus were not allowed to chant or make noise or attack The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Darren Jackson, 22, president-elect of the College Democrats.

    “This war has been mishandled,” said Jackson, who acknowledged the group had only about 25 active members, “which isn’t much out of 30,000 students.”

  25. Nader’s political posturing (which included a critical comment about Church leadership–not a nice thing to criticize the Church leaders of college students who have paid you 12,000 to speak to them) wasn’t any better.

    What was the critical comment that he made about Church leadership? Not that I’m surprised at all, but I am curious what he said and how the Mormons in the audience felt about it.

  26. Mormons in Utah don’t “cheer” for the Prophet of the Church.

    Everyone stands, in silence, as he enters the building.

    When you have thousands of Mormons standing in unison and silence in a packed venue like the Marriot Center, the effect is rather electrifying.

    Far more impressive than cheering. Any second rate sports team warrants as much. But only the Prophet gets that reception.

    The silence Gordon B. Hinckley commands is far louder than any cheering I’ve heard at any rally or sports event.

  27. I agree with Seth,

    Once in chicago in the late 1990’s GBH came. 20K people packed into the Bulls stadium. Total silence when he walked in. Was really impressive.

  28. David Brosnahan says:

    As American’s we are free to voice of discent. But as Mormons we are expected to “Follow the Prophet” Well, the prophet was honoring the Vice-president yesterday; what were you doing.

    Now the church doesnt have an official stand on the war(that i know). So, until it does, its open season.

  29. Actually, Pres. Hinckley was there honoring the 6,000 or so students who had graduated from BYU.

    Of course, I don’t really know what he was thinking. And neither do you.

    And we aren’t expected to “Follow the Prophet” in matters political. If you think “honoring” the Vice President is necessary for your salvation, why don’t you begin by honoring some real luminaries, Aaron Burr, John C. Calhoun and Spiro Agnew. Or my favorite vice presidential act: Rocky giving the finger to a bunch of hecklers. There’s one we can follow the prophet and honor, eh?

    But Cheney did live up to John Nance Garner’s epithet: not worth a pitcherful of warm spit.

  30. I enjoyed the alt.commencement last night for the spirit and ambition it represented. Ashley Sanders’ speech was just as eloquent as the high profile men on the docket, and was a powerful argument for integrity and authenticity, to think and provide alternatives without disdain for the original establishment. Having attended both commencements, the alt. was more intellectually stimulating.

    They announced last night that 1,000 BYU students who had supported either a petition against Cheney or the alt.commencement, I forget which,
    were put on a blacklist with Provo employers. This is horrendous, if true. And would seem to indicate the necessity for such alt. events in Utah County, again, if true.

  31. Okay, keep in mind that I’m paraphrasing here.

    Nader said that when he was growing up, every day after school his father would say, “Well, Ralph, what did you learn today? Did you learn to believe or did you learn to think?” Cheering from the audience.

    This led him into saying that Mormonism was founded on dissent and rebellion–he made a reference to early church leadership. More cheering.

    He then said that–drat, someone is going to have to come up with the exact wording here–their (referencing early church leadership) contemporary successors aren’t as interested in the First Amendment. This comment made me uncomfortable, particularly since the organizers of the protest, such as Diane Bailey, and the alternative commencement made a point of saying that they weren’t trying to be critical of church leaders.

    One of my friends said you could argue that he was talking about university officials (well, that would include church leadership), but his comment about contemporary successors was certainly couched in religious terms.

    I honestly can’t remember if there was cheering or not. I think there wasn’t a lot of cheering at the comment, but I think there was some, but I don’t remember where it was coming from. A lot of the people there weren’t BYU students.

    In any case, it reminds me of when Helen Thomas (not to open up another can of worms here) came. These politicians don’t seem to understand BYU and I’m not sure that they try. That’s why I liked Pete Ashdown so much (as well as the student speakers–they were pretty phenomenal). He understood his audience and he actually said a few original ideas. When I watched the Democratic presidential candidate debate, I heard a lot of the candidates trashing the Bush administration and the war, but I didn’t get the idea that they really understood what to do about it, except to pull out and leave the Iraqis to themselves. Ashdown, however, said one of the reasons the war isn’t working is because in this modern age of technology, brute-force state war doesn’t stand a chance against committed individuals. That’s interesting! Whether or not it’s true, it actually made me think.

    I just feel bad that students paid $12,000 to hear the things I read everyday after high school in the Sacramento Bee. I felt like their (the students) idealism was taken advantage of. A friend of mine who grew up in Utah, though, didn’t mind the speech because, he said, it’s a rare thing in Utah.

    So, I don’t know. In general I just wish politicians who came here would actually try to engage their audience. When they fail to do so, to me it comes across as selfish political posturing–people who talk about engaging others and then spout off their standard rhetoric. But that’s politics, right? What else should we expect?

  32. Nader also made a small comment in his press conference later that might have bothered a few people, something about the student leaders having more understanding than their leaders (Meaning political understanding, I think.) The story is here:

  33. I mean, on the other hand, you could say that the students did get what they paid for–that having Nader caught people’s attention and thus the other voices (such as the students who spoke) were heard because of it. I guess I just have a low tolerance for political sound bites. Since it got national attention for these students, though, then maybe it was worth it.

  34. comment #31

    I’m not sure that it’s actually true. Check out the update on this article.

  35. Peter LLC says:


    But isn’t the comment correct? Doesn’t the majority support the VP, or at a minimum disagree with the protests against him?

    Sure, in the context of the article I cited (there are plenty more where it came from; see for exmample the Deseret News for less emphasis on the protest in the headline), the lad is “only” speaking for Provo, where a majority probably is in support of the Veep. Though I’m not sure why an Orem resident feels the need to speak on Provo’s behalf.

    Anyway, I’m not sure how your comment refutes my point, which in a nutshell was that the outspoken supporters of Cheney would do well to remember that they speak for themselves, not the community, not the BYU population, and certainly not Church members worldwide.

  36. Jon in Austin says:


    I beg to differ about cheering. Ever been to a BYU football game when the prophet rides out on his popemobile? I was at the game (back before I hadrepented of my sins and went to the U) where Pres. Hinckley renamed the stadium in honor of Saint Lavell. Cheering for the prophet is fun and appropriate in certain venues (non-religious). Heck, we even get to cheer in the temple when its being dedicated!

  37. Anyway, I’m not sure how your comment refutes my point, which in a nutshell was that the outspoken supporters of Cheney would do well to remember that they speak for themselves, not the community, not the BYU population, and certainly not Church members worldwide.

    As long as the protesters understand that as well, and don’t try to convey a different image to the world.

  38. The protestors did much to improve the image of BYU to the world. Anyway, it’s done and documented, and the record seems to show that the protestors were a credit to their school, faith and country. No need to tut-tut any longer. If there was something you found out-of-line about the protests, please link to it.

  39. Hey, you guys might be interested to see some of the photos I took on my blog:

  40. My hat’s off to the alternative commencement organizers. Nader managed to insult all Mormons on how their leaders are out of touch, how belief is contrary to reason, and how Mormons are just plain dumb — except the enlightened college democrats that is. The college democrates at BYU did more to alienate members of the church in two hours than anything for about 30 years. Way to go!

  41. Wow, they sound like a force to be reckoned with.

  42. Comments like #41 help us to understand why some among us might conclude that belief is contrary to reason. Nothing like hearing from a believer who’s apparently lost all reason to make that case.

    Anyway, #41 seems to suggest a familiarity with Nader’s speech, could he quote or paraphrase the offending passages, rather than just characterizing them?

    Maybe the members of the church you speak for ought not worry so much about how a few politically aware students opt to celebrate their graduation.

  43. As long as we’re talking about alienation, the risk of alienating those members who disagree with your politics apparently worries you not one jot.

  44. Chino,

    Um, actually Blake has a point. See my comments: #21 and #32. While the alternative commencement was kind of neat and the students showed a very open-minded attitude, Nader’s approach didn’t exactly support what they were trying to do, which I thought unfortunate. As I mentioned in my previous comments, though the earlier talks were very good and showed a balanced and mature attitude, Nader’s was standard political fare. He made some cheap shots at Cheney (after the students had talked about being compassionate to those with whom you don’t agree), he insulted BYU students and church leadership (after the students had tried to make it clear that they were encouraging alternative voices rather than being disdainful of the ones most often heard at BYU), and he spent most of the rest of his time talking about his pet issues and his contributions to society. In my opinion, he did alienate his audience because he didn’t seem to try to understand and engage the complexity of the situation. He just gave his standard political speech, as you would expect from any politician, and collected his $12,000.

    Why is it that people always assume when BYU students don’t like a liberal (or green) speaker that the fault is in the listener? It’s especially ironic considering the first part of Nader’s speech strongly encouraged dissent. But dissent is only acceptable when it’s directed toward the establishment, right?

  45. Sorry, #43, should be “you claim to speak for”. I wouldn’t want to suggest that you were actually speaking on behalf of other members.

  46. Hi Rinlee,

    I’d read your comments above. As far as I can tell, Blake is working from your paraphrased account to come up with a version of the alt.commencement that just affirms his own narrow view of the world.

    For example, you recount that

    Nader said that when he was growing up, every day after school his father would say, “Well, Ralph, what did you learn today? Did you learn to believe or did you learn to think?”

    In Blake’s telling of it, this becomes “Nader said belief is contrary to reason” … Puh-leez, give me a break. Pay attention to the actual words coming out of Nader’s mouth. Please note that his dad’s comment came as he returned home from SCHOOL, not Sacrament Meeting. Are you telling me that good Mormon parents would be wrong to teach their kids to be skeptical of what they learn in SCHOOL?

    Is it too much to ask that those who want to make a critique try using the guy’s actual words?

  47. By the way, personally, Nader does nothing for me. I don’t find him to be a particularly effective speaker, and I’m still bitter about that small matter of an election going somewhat differently than I’d hoped all those years ago. But, the point is, IT’S NOT MY COMMENCEMENT, it belongs to the graduates. And, as you saw, some neat things happened because a few graduates decided to take action. All this sniping from the sidelines is quite tiresome really, and beneath a lot of you, if you only could recognize how petty it makes you sound.

  48. That’s why I liked Pete Ashdown so much (as well as the student speakers–they were pretty phenomenal).


    You seem awfully worried about that $12K the students supposedly had to pay out-of-pocket. Are you sure you’ve got your story right? My understanding is that there were actually excess funds left over for charity after the donations came in from the online fundraising effort.

    If my kids can ever be described as “phenomenal” college students, I will die a happy man.

    Be careful you don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees, Rinlee.

  49. Chino,
    Well, it’s a good thing you’re here to tell us how petty we sound. ;-)

    I didn’t meant to sound petty. I realize I did rather focus on Nader’s speech–but that was the focus of the commencement, and I was terribly uncomfortable with the fact that he criticized church leadership. Terribly uncomfortable. I felt like it was undermining what the students were trying to do, but I can’t say that they necessarily felt the same way. I had hoped to come across as critiquing the way Nader seemed to not be as in tune with is audience as he could have been. You’re right that the money is pretty much an irrelevant issue. Sorry to bring it up.

    With that said, a few words to the BYU Democrats:

    Congratulations! One of the things that disappointed me terribly when I came to BYU a couple years ago was the fact that so few of my peers seemed to be politically aware. I’m impressed that you guys are so dedicated to fostering political discussion on campus. For the majority of BYU students, it’s a bit too easy to feel politically comfortable because dissenting opinions are not encountered here as often. I appreciate what you guys are trying to do, and I also appreciate how you are trying to do it (even if I’m not keen on Nader). Thanks for hosting such an interesting event.

  50. Chino,
    Actually, I’m not sure that the money is an irrelevant issue. If I’d contributed to the fund, I’d feel betrayed that it went to a speaker who criticized my church leaders. Of course, a lot of the contributors on Daily Kos felt betrayed when they found out Nader was going to be the speaker. And it may be that only the kind of BYU student who wouldn’t donate money to such an event (namely me) would also be the kind of person who would be uncomfortable with a speaker criticizing church leadership. It’s entirely likely that I’m projecting my own concerns onto people who don’t have the same concerns. I still don’t think the money is entirely irrelevant, though you’re right that it’s not the most important issue.

  51. If I’d contributed to the fund, I’d feel betrayed that it went to a speaker who criticized my church leaders.

    I contributed (substantially) to the fund, and am fairly pleased with how things turned out. Frankly, I think Nader is right: the Church is no longer the force for radical social change that it was under Joseph and Brigham.

    You may think that is in accordance with God’s Master Plan for the Kingdom, or you may think that it’s a failure of vision on the part of the current leadership. But it’s true in any event.

  52. You cannot expect non-Mormons to understand all the nuances and sensitivities of a Mormon audience, and because of that I don’t think we should fret too much over Nader’s comments, nor use them as a reason to bash the whole anti-Cheney protest. I congratulate these folk, and from this small corner of Euro Mormonland, I say thanks for representing my voice.

  53. Chris L. says:

    Hear, Hear!
    I contributed, I went (and contributed again), and I enjoyed it.
    Thanks to the students who helped publicly communicate that a portion of our community significantly dissents from the public policy and practices of the Bush administration. Sure, some of Nader’s speech was his normal “corporations are almost always evil!” slop, but so what? (and besides, though Nader gets this wrong because he exaggerates, but there is no question he is right on some of his corporate haranguing).
    Blake’s 41 isn’t an accurate summary of Nader’s speech, and I find it humorous that Rinlee, who didn’t support the alternative event–conceptually of financially–feels he can try and represent those who did by the verbal sleight of “If had contributed, I would feel….”
    Again thanks to the Ashley’s and Eric for putting this together.

  54. I find the automatic Ralph Nader apologia amusing. I wonder if reversed, who would enjoy the Cheney apologia.

    And just to be a jerk, I hear Cheney’s whole talk was one long Chiasmus, and is going to be added to D&C as OD3….

  55. I was quite hoping for something as inspiring as Sean Hannity’s rousing speech to the students of UVSC during the Michael Moore scandal. What a let down.

  56. Alright Chino, here’s the actual words: “We have to ask ourselves , what is it about their environment [at BYU] that led them to do this [ask Cheney to speak]? Was it lack of reflection on campus? Did it touch something my father asked me when I was 10 years old and I came home from school and he asked, ‘What did you learn today, Ralph? Did you learn to belive or did you learn to think?”

    It’s fairly clear what Nader was saying to anyone who isn’t a liberal apologist — either you learn to think or you learn to believe because the two must be mutually exclusive. So for all you believing morons at BYU, the reason you invited Cheney to speak is that you believe rather than think.

    Once again, way to go college democrats. Your key-note speaker spoke his contempt for belief, for BYU and for Cheney all in one brief story that he figured out when he was 10 and the BYU students will never get because they’re Morons — oops, I meant Mormons.

  57. Peter LLC says:

    Preach on, Blake–take those contemptible Democrats and their godless spokesman to the mat.

  58. Blake,

    That’s the quote that raises your ire? Really? I think you may have chosen the most extreme interpretation of the quote possible.

    So, it’s bad to think? Your own work suggests to me that your beliefs are based on much careful thought, so I don’t know what you find contemptible about this allegedly insulting idea. I honestly think he is criticizing blind belief, something that should be criticized at every opportunity.

    As for Matt’s charge of hypocrisy, let’s say Blake is right and that Nader was criticising all belief, thoughtful or not. I agree that that would be unhelpful and alienating. But in the other corner you have the institutional power of BYU marshaled to invite, celebrate, and honour the unrepentant architect of a folly that has caused the death of tens of thousands of people.

    You really want to talk about alienation?

  59. We have to ask ourselves, what is it about their environment (at BYU) that led them to do this? Was it a lack of reflection on the campus? Did it touch something my father asked me when I was 10 years old and I came home from school and he asked me, ‘What did you learn today, Ralph? Did you learn to believe or did you learn to think?’

    Funny, but if you took out the reference to “Ralph,” I would have a hard time telling if the quote was from Ralph Nader or from Hugh Nibley.

  60. hey everybody,

    I’ve heard that Provo businesses are black listing BYU students who protested Cheney and participated in the alternative commencement. Any more indication of this beside Joe Vogel?

  61. Full Transcript of Cheney’s BYU Remarks

    My elided version:

    “Be on watch for … certain people that come along … I think for example when I met my friend Don Rumsfeld … later on it was … Don who gave me a position of great responsibility in the Whitehouse … I can promise there will be people like this in your own life who … reward your efforts … I’ve met some very successful people in my day … Most of us are able to succeed and to rise in the world because someone helped out along the way … When we have a long memory of what others have given us … it’s better every day …”

  62. Shorter Nader: Figure out what you believe and hitch your wagon to your ideals

    Shorter Cheney: Hitch your wagon to a rising congressman

  63. Turnabout is fair play.

  64. But a dogpile is downright fun.

  65. By the way, since I’ve linked to Cheney’s BYU remarks, I might as well link to his remarks at Auburn University in May 2005:

    Vice President’s Remarks at Auburn University Commencement

    They are, for all intents and purposes,


  66. Ronan: I was against the war in Iraq before it started when it was unpopular to be against it. You state that Cheney is “the unrepentant architect of a folly that has caused the death of tens of thousands of people.” Well, the architects were also the U.S. Congress (including House and Senate Demos who now want to forget about that), Tony Blair, the Parliament, and a host of others with short memories (with the exception of Blair).

    Now I’m against a withdrawal date because the U.S. and England have destabalized the entire region and pull-out means mass genocide of Sunnis, Russia and Iran filling the void, Al-quaida emboldened and political and social chaos for decades. One thing I have noticed, as anti-Bush as I am — there haven’t been any terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since Bush went on the offensive — I suspect because tje targets are all too easy driving down the road in Iraq.

    For the record Ronan: I don’t see my interpretation of what Nader said to be extreme at all. In fact, in context I suggest it is the most natural reading. After all, what is wrong with BYU, that no one at BYU can think — or is it that they cannot think because they also believe? I suggest that the reading I give it is fairly obvious.

  67. On Nader I simply disagree, Blake, but that’s all to the good. And for the record, Tony Blair is a fool.

  68. So, Blake, you were against the war before you were for it? Why does that sound so familiar?

    And BTW, that’s a really lame argument in support of anything: We haven’t been attacked at home because we are sending our service people out to be attacked abroad. By itself, that strategy makes no sense unless your goal is to reduce the number of service people.

  69. I still don’t understand how it follows from any of this that:

    The college democrats at BYU did more to alienate members of the church in two hours than anything for about 30 years. Way to go!

    I think it’s fairly obvious that this is an undeserved smear.

    If not, why not?

    To my way of thinking, it doesn’t seem quite decent to go around telling kids who are celebrating graduating from BYU, who were all apparently worthy to graduate from BYU, many of whom likely served missions, most of whom likely lived by standards far above those of the typical college life, that after all their study and devotion, that these same students must now avoid announcing their dissenting political views lest they alienate their fellow believers.

    To those believers who would seek to burden these kids with that, especially the grown-ups among us who should know better, I can only ask:

    Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

  70. Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army, retired, former Director of the National Security Agency:

    “… the Commander-in-Chief … neither acts nor talks as though he is in charge. Rather, he engages in tit-for-tat games … These kinds of games, however, are no longer helpful, much less amusing. They merely reflect the absence of effective leadership in a crisis. And we are in a crisis.”

    Who’s the guy to which the label “architect” best applies where Iraq is concerned?

    Don Rumsfeld.

    Where is he?



    Because when it becomes obvious the plans were bad, who do you fire? The architect.

    Who does Dick Cheney thank in every commencement speech he gives?

    Don Rumsfeld.

    Go ahead, check it out. Head over to and search for “Cheney” and “commencement” … it’s not just the BYU and Auburn speeches, it looks to be nearly all of them (and he’s given quite a few).

    Seems to me that our VP is flying around the country on our dime making sure our college graduates hear about his personal appreciation for Don Rumsfeld.

    Assuming we’d all like to apply our terms accurately, and not just bandy them about in order to mischaracterize opponents in a silly tit-for-tat game, let’s keep it straight about who the “architects” were. The VIP who arrived on Air Force Two to address BYU recently, by his own actions and words, continues to welcome that label.

  71. I did not understand Nader to criticize anyone for holding core Mormon beliefs.

    If he is criticizing any Mormon belief, it is the religious belief held, implicitly or explicitly, by many on the campus and elsewhere that if the Brethren invited Cheney to speak, it is wrong to protest it (say, by holding an alternative commencement–which unlike the protests on campus, did not have the approval/permission of the Brethren). (Of course, nothing the Brethren have said supports a belief that it is improper to hold such an alternative commencement.)

    Or, Nader, more likely in my view, may be criticizing the belief of many members on campus and elsewhere in the fundamental honesty of government. (“If the President says it, it must be so, because he/she has access to information that we rank and file do not have.”) Or, perhaps, Nader is challenging the belief of some that George W. Bush is doing God’s will, and that, like criticism of LDS leaders, criticism of US Presidents is against God’s will (unless they are democrats).

    With respect to BYU democrats alienating members of the Church–which members and from what were they alienated?

    Were they alienated from Nader? From the democratic party? From allowing democrats on BYU’s campus?

    Were republican Mormons alienated? I suppose some were. But my wife, who is republican, was not alienated (of course, she is no Bush fan). Were LDS democrats alienated? Apart from Orson Scott Card (a nominal democrat who reminds me of Zell Miller), I would be surprised if many were. I am an LDS democrat, and I was not alienated. Independents? Tougher call. Two of my daughters are independents, and they were not alienated (but then, they are no Bush fans).

    I gather Blake is an independent, and was alienated by the speech. Blake, were you alienated by what you argue (and I disagree) was a claim that religious belief is inconsistent with rational thought? Or were you alienated by his strong denunciations of the Administration’s policies?

    Many non-Bush supporters, who are faithful members of the Church, felt “alienated” by BYU’s invitation to Cheney and the bestowal of an honorary degree. Many of us thought these might be construed by fellow church members as an implicit endorsement of the republican party and this Administration and its policies (a “let he who has ears to hear” endorsement).

    The fact that the Church restated its formal neutrality policy, announced the invitation of a democratic Senator (who at the time was not a lightening rod, but is becoming one), allowed protests on campus, and made no effort to dissuade the organizing of the alternative commencement, all are welcome signs, and have taken some of the “sting” of the Cheney invitation and honorary degree. My hat is off to the students who organized it.

  72. #54

    Critiquing Nader’s speech doesn’t mean I didn’t support the alternative commencement conceptually (even if I didn’t contribute financially). And I said that I acknowledged that I may very well not be representing other people’s opinions. What I didn’t support was this comment by Nader:

    “The Mormon church was born from revelation, rebellion, and dissent. Some of the contemporary successors are having trouble with the First Amendment.”

    That’s the comment that I took issue with. I don’t doubt that many here agree with it, but I personally thought it was disrespectful.

    Whatever your opinion, however, there it is.

    P.S. I’m a girl. Just so you know. :-)

  73. The Mormon church was born from revelation, rebellion, and dissent. Some of the contemporary successors are having trouble with the First Amendment.

    Person A tabs Person B to speak at commencement. Person C doesn’t like Person B and decides to hold an alternative commencement.

    Please Point out to me where the Amendment trampling happened. The constant exaggerated rhetoric from the left (and the right) are such stumbling blocks to real dialogue.

  74. As was already explained above: You cannot expect non-Mormons to understand all the nuances and sensitivities of a Mormon audience …

    If anyone were to suggest that Cheney spoke on behalf of BYU, the LDS church, or those in attendance at the BYU commencement, would it be fair to point out that he was speaking to his audience, not on their behalf? Of course.

    Likewise, is it fair to accuse the organizers or participants of the alt.commencement of alienating their fellow Mormons just because you happen not to agree with everything said by visiting speakers? Of course not.

    At the very least, if you’re going to make such a serious charge, please back it up with convincing examples.

    I wonder, does below fit your idea of real dialogue?

    The college democrats at BYU did more to alienate members of the church in two hours than anything for about 30 years. Way to go!

    Has any attempt been made to persuade us to agree with the above sentiment?

    Will it be forthcoming?

    Or is it all my fault that I don’t believe in cognition by decree?

  75. No, it doesn’t.

    And I wonder why you would quote someone else in an attempt to play “gotcha” with me.

    My point was that in an attempt to prove our point, we often embellish. Blake is just as guilty as Ralph Nader.

  76. You made a valid point about the problem of exaggerated rhetoric.

    I was being intentionally shrill and not at all careful with my words.

    I apologize, I wasn’t trying to play gotcha with you, but rather trying to provoke an apparently unrepentant slime (someone who smears).

    I appreciate your comparison, and I suppose I’m also guilty … of giving Nader more leeway to embellish in his ranting against corporations and institutions than I am willing to give to someone who attacks our BYU graduates.

  77. I can understand what VP Cheney got from the event – few American universities or institutions would welcome him these days, and fewer still would salve his reputation by honoring him with a degree.

    What I can’t understand is what BYU and the church got out of it – there’s no upside that I can recognize, PR-wise, national politics-wise, culture-wise, theology-wise, or morality-wise.

    So I’m left to consider such things as maybe Cheney called in a favor from the church, or maybe some powerful church figure still believes Cheney is a good and competent person, in spite of all documented evidence to the contrary. It’s difficult to think about this, because I respect Mormons a great deal.


  1. […] commencement. Also check out Ronan’s letter to Mr. Cheney over at BCC.   Stirling now also has a post up over at BCC with some photos.  All these posts are worth […]

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