BYU Alternative Commencement

I couldn’t go to last night’s event (Dick Cheney was in town to speak at the BYU commencement) due to a bad cold, but am excited that several of our cheerleading squad did get to go.  Green Jenni has a post on the event.  Here are some other news items on Cheney’s visit and the events surrounding it:
Cheney arrives in Utah as demonstrators line sidewalks near BYU
Cheney demonstrators, pro and con, flock to traditionally quiet, conservative BYU
Gathering supports Cheney visiting ‘odd’ Utah
Shurtleff blasts ‘Iraqi Rocky’ and ‘Hezbollah Harry’ at BYU rally
Cheney Draws Protests Even at BYU
Demonstrators follow rules, meet with some derision
Nader urges BYU grads to serve country, not seek profits

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OREM - About 50 Brigham Young University graduates walked not through
the Marriott Center on campus Thursday evening, but the McKay Events
Center at Utah Valley State College.

    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

    "Out East, the media thinks if BYU students are protesting,
then the situation has to be pretty bad," Nader said. "And it is.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

    As for Cheney's draw to BYU, Nader said the reasoning was quite simple: it's tradition.

    "With about 70 percent [of the populace] against the war and 20
percent approval rating, it's hard to find a venue, so you ask to be
invited," Nader said. "Where do you go? Where the voting turnout was
the highest for you in the prior election."

    Reem Yahia, an international student from Palestine, went to
BYU commencement because her family had traveled to see her graduation.

    But she left BYU's ceremony early and came to UVSC.

    "I didn't want Cheney to spoil it," she said.

You're dealing with the most impeachable regimes
Hundreds protest Cheney at BYU.

Roughly 300 demonstrators gathered today in conservative Provo, Utah, to protest a commencement speech by Vice President Cheney at Brigham Young University:capt490aba7e8e7d42bfa8ed3c0d24098c2acheney_university_protest_utfh102_125×96shkl.jpg

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.

That was the general tenor of the streetside – though as in many protests, a few middle fingers were let loose by angry drivers and indignant protesters. One truck driver screamed to the protesters “you’re all traitors!” while several others in this largely Mormon town opted for the more subtle “I’ll be praying for you!

Nader/alt. commencement

ALAN CHOATE - Daily Herald   
Several hundred people attended an alternative graduation ceremony for Brigham Young University
on Thursday night, an event that offered a raucouslypolitical contrast to the more staid
official ceremony earlier in the day.

Two dozen BYU students raised $26,000 in nine days to pay
for the ceremony and organized every detail, from reserving the McKay
Events Center at Utah Valley State College to arranging the speaker
lineup -- former Democratic
U.S. Senate candidate Pete Ashdown, ex-Amnesty International director
Jack Healey and consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

am overwhelmed," organizer and graduating senior Eric Bybee said as the
commencement started. "We are overwhelmed and grateful that so many
have showed up."

All the speakers offered a sharp critique of the
policies -- including the Iraq war and the treatment of people detained
as "enemy combatants" -- pursued by President Bush and Vice President
Dick Cheney, who spoke at BYU's commencement. But students were also
urged to take heart that the alternative event even took place, and to
keep that energy alive as they went out into the world.

gathering is more than a response," said Ashdown, who unsuccessfully
challenged U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in the November election.
"This gathering is the future."

And Healey, after telling stories of human rights abuses abroad, said everyone has a duty to seek improvements in the world.

your voices and turn them into thunder," Healey said. "Take your candle
and turn it into a bonfire -- and revive this nation to who we say we

Organizer Ashley Sanders, who is also graduating, said she felt strongly that an alternative set of voices needed to be offered.

should have to give reasons for the things that they do," she said. "If
BYU should have to defend its decision to invite Dick Cheney, Dick
Cheney should speak, but we should also be able to respond.

people have to give reasons for their opposition and reasons for their
support of something, then we're better people as a civic society."

a news conference before the ceremony, Nader said that the
uncontroversial nature of Cheney's speech indicates the administration
is feeling the heat of an unpopular war and increasingly tough scrutiny
by Congress.

"He avoided a political speech, and I think that was
sending a message right there," Nader said. "You can wave the flag, and
surround a deadly, boomeranging war with patriotic symbols. He could've
done that.

"I think they know that the country is turning against
them. ... I think they're hunkering down in the White House. I think
they cannot believe what's happened to them."

Though the event was at UVSC, it was not affiliated with the school.

commencement is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. today in the McKay Events
Center and will feature Kevin B. Rollins, the former CEO of Dell Inc.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A7.
Protests and rallies pop up
By Amy Choate-Nielsen

Deseret Morning News

      PROVO — Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit to Brigham Young University on Thursday brought out those who wanted to rally and to protest.

Gwen Dutcher, left, a BYU alumna, and Felisa Hanamaikai take part in a rally for peace at the entrance to BYU campus Thursday. (Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News)

Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
Gwen Dutcher, left, a BYU alumna, and Felisa Hanamaikai take part in a rally for peace at the entrance to BYU campus Thursday.

      On a popular corner of BYU’s campus, where many graduates traditionally pause to take pictures of the school’s “Enter to learn, go forth to serve” sign, members of the BYU College Democrats hosted a rally for peace that drew about 100 people, including non-students and veterans who came to protest Cheney’s visit and the war in Iraq.
      Down the street, in front of the Provo City Library at Academy Square, some 30 people attended a Republican-sponsored rally in support of Cheney, which was organized by a group calling itself the “We Support America Committee” and bedecked with American flags.
      Only a couple dozen people stood on Washington Square in Salt Lake City, protesting Cheney’s visit and asking for an end to war.
      Aside from occasional shouts of derision and obscene hand gestures, most of the rallies in Provo concluded peacefully about 2:30 p.m. Participants said they appreciated the opportunity to voice their opinions.
      “Part of the reason why we’re out here is to raise awareness and have a dialogue,” said Diana Smith, a member of the BYU College Democrats, as a car drove by, blasting its horn. “He just gave us the finger.”
      The BYU Democrats organized an initial protest of Cheney’s visit on the school’s campus on April 4. The students also received advance permission from the school to host the Thursday protest.
      Those who were non-students were kept separate from the BYU College Democrats — they stood on public property instead of the school’s private property — as per the school’s request.
      Aaron Davis, who organized the Veterans for Peace protest across the street, likened his protest to the rallies that occurred around the Vietnam War, saying he is on a mission to bring deployed U.S. troops home. He said that speaking out against the war was almost therapeutic for him and other veterans.”In doing this (protest), our veterans are able to talk, they’re able to march,” Davis said. “The College Democrats have more people here than we do, but that’s great because now we have a discourse. We’re not hiding (our opposition). We have to do something. We can’t stand idly by.”
      Although the rallies were all nonviolent, some harsh words were exchanged by both those who came out to support or oppose Cheney.
      “We just keep our fingers crossed and our hopes up that we’ll be able to do something to correct the corruption in our government,” said protester Dan Kennelly of Sandy, who attended rallies in both Salt Lake City and Provo. “We protest all of the idiots from the top on down.”
      At the GOP-sponsored rally, Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem; Rep. Greg Curtis, R-Sandy; Provo Mayor Lewis Billings; and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff spoke.
      Shurtleff defended the war in Iraq and called U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who recently publicly criticized Cheney, “Hezbollah Harry.” He called Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, who regularly calls for the impeachment of President George W. Bush, “Iraqi Rocky.”
      Billings said he was glad to welcome one of the most “prominent and significant individuals in America” to Provo, and cautioned listeners against being too critical of the country’s leaders.
      “There’s not one of us here that we couldn’t put under a microscope and start picking off the faults and the flaws,” Billings said. “As Americans, we tend to criticize, but I hope we don’t get so caught up in (the negatives.) … If any community can see through the fluff and chatter and rhetoric, it’s this community.”

Martin Tobert, left, joins a handful of others at Washington Square in Salt Lake City to hold a rally for peace and a protest against Vice President Dick Cheney's visit to Utah. (Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News)

Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Martin Tobert, left, joins a handful of others at Washington Square in Salt Lake City to hold a rally for peace and a protest against Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit to Utah.

2 responses to “BYU Alternative Commencement

  1. Nader
    It’s interesting that when these remarkable young organizers tried to think of someone to present a serious critique of the status quo they chose Ralph Nader. Maybe David Cobb wasn’t available?

  2. Hi Dee,
    This is Brandon Walker. You probably don’t remember me. But I am sometimes involved with SLC anti-war demonstrations (although none recently because of school). I added you to my friend list. Hope you don’t mind.

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