Friday, April 27, 2007

Citizen Cheney Part Deux, or, Dick Back in Black

Yesterday, envested in the black robes of a false priesthood, Richard Bruce Cheney received an honorary degree in public service from BYU and served as keynote speaker for the commencement exercises.

Predictably, he was welcomed enthusiastically by most of BYU (there was another protest and an "alternative commencement" but the organizers blew all their credibility when they included Ralph Nader). For me, the two most disappointing moments were 1) when the students applauded louder when Cheney's name was mentioned than when President Hinckley's name was mentioned seconds earlier, and 2) when the student giving the invocation thanked God for Cheney's presence and asked heaven's blessings first on Cheney and then only later did the same for President Hinckley. We thank the O God for a Vice President? Seems a little off to me. Maybe this student had Luke 6:28 in mind---perhaps the Vice President has not cursed the Mormons, but he sure did (despitefully?) use us for political gain.

I was wrong about one thing: I predicted that Cheney would use the commencement as a political forum. His speech was not overtly political. He mentioned politics only in passing. It was a short, relatively bland speech. There are a few possible explanations: 1) Cheney realizes that the administration is beyond recuperation and a political speech would have been in vain. 2) Cheney realizes that his audience is already in the bag and a political speech wouldn't accomplish anything that isn't already accomplished with Utahns. 3) The First Presidency, when they accepted Cheney's self-invitation to speak, explained the purpose of commencement and asked him to leave politics off campus. 4) Cheney himself realized that a political commencement speech was inappropriate. 5) Cheney knew that his purpose (to give the impression of church approval) was already accomplished by the fact that he got to be commencement speaker and he also knows that most people ignore commencement anyway so he didn't bother putting much effort into it.

The speech itself was not an awful speech. It was not a very good speech either. Very mediocre. One moment of perhaps unintentional honesty gave me a chuckle with Cheney saying "my entire political career has been an unplanned enterprise." Well, isn't that what we've been saying about the invasion of Iraq?

I know it's a tradition to give honorary degrees to speakers, but I was still disappointed that Cheney received a degree in public service. Especially since Pres. Samuelson kept emphasizing that this is the highest honor that BYU can give, and that it is only given to people who have demonstrated outstanding service in some way. Being VP is an accomplishment, but accomplishment and service are not the same thing; it is debatable at best that Cheney has done any public service. Pres. Samuelson didn't even give any examples of his alleged service, he just gave a run-down of his political career. Somehow, I feel, viscerally, even though I know that it is logically absurd, that my own degree is somehow sullied or cheapened. I'm just glad I graduated last year. It smarts, but it will fade.

You can still watch commencement here.


Mollie said...

Thank you for your insight!!

The Shark said...

Cook, I was at the commencement and I disagree with some of your points:

1) The audience was definitely not cheering louder for Cheney than for Pres. Hinckley. I haven't watched any of the footage so I don't know if they show Cheney and the prophet walking in, but Pres. Hinckley was in front of the V.P. and nobody knew he was coming. When we saw him, the whole room erupted into applause and cheering as he walked in, waving his little cane around at everyone. It was only after we were past the initial surprise that we realized that Cheney was behind him! When Pres. Samuelson later announced the presence of them both, Cheney was second to be announced. The applause for Pres. Hinckley was loud, again because of the surprise and the love of the people for him. The applause for Cheney was probably equal, but definitely not louder. MOST of us applauding were doing it as a courtesy (there were some who stood up, showing their strong support), and this was shown by the fact that everyone announced afterward received the same courtesy applause, each time getting more and more awkward (as noted by the decreasing volume level). Even Elder Kerr was applauded.

2) I don't think the order in which someone expresses gratitude necessarily denotes order of importance or value. It was a prayer by just a kid, dude, not a speech or a list of priorities. In any case, Cheney was more of a guest than Pres. Hinckley, and was probably just being given distinguished guest treatment (IF there was any intention in stating his name first). In a setting where our church worships only God and Jesus Christ, and only PRAISES our leaders, I don't find it inappropriate to say the prayer how he did. In any case, I doubt that Pres. Hinckley cared. If our prophet had not been mentioned at ALL, then I would have taken issue.

I agree that Cheney's speech wasn't great, but it was decent. KSL radio mentioned that his speech writer is LDS, which might explain the lack of politics involved. As far as his honorary doctorate goes, I agree that maybe that was over the top and that tradition shouldn't necessarily always be followed, and although I can't state a specific thing that he has done for the country, you've got to admit that he has held a lot of high positions in Washington for a pretty long time, which means he has been involved in our country's government for a time (dishonestly or not).

I'm not a huge Cheney fan or anything, don't get me wrong. I feel like I am more in the middle of the two extremes of the pro-'s and anti-'s. I just feel like both sides have people who have somewhat skewed opinions and get a little carried away with the whole ordeal. I lean towards preferring Cheney to not have come at all, but I don't lose sleep over it.

Actually my biggest protest against Cheney was the fact that I had to get to the Marriott Center 2.5 hours early for security checks, but most of that was assuaged by the little gift bags of brownies/pretzels/water/BYU trivia cards that were left under EACH SEAT (including bleachers) in the building to thank us for being patient. That, and Vocal Point performed.

JKC said...

Mollie, is this the Mollie that's friends with Gillins?


I watched it streaming on The Cheney applause still sounds louder to me (though only slightly). But it is much shorter. I hate courtesy applause, especially in the state of the union where everyone stands up every three seconds. So annoying!

I think it may have been out of line for me to criticize the prayer. I'm sure if you asked the kid, he would say that he cares more about Pres. Hinckley than about Vice Pres. Cheney. On the other hand, I never think twice about laughing at someone's gratitude for "moisture" or extreme concern with safe driving. (Maybe I should).

JKC said...

oops, hit return too fast.

What I mean to say is that I meant only to give my own reactions to commencement as a whole, not to judge the individuals participating. The prayer may have been ineloquent and accidentally said something that might appear to give pre-eminence to the V.P. over the Pres. of the Church, but that does not invalidate the prayer, and it does not say anything at all about the guy saying the prayer. Maybe I care too much about words. I probably do, but that's the English degree and the law school talking. On the other hand, the words we use and how he use them are important. Elder Holland talked about that in conference.

Don't worry, though, it's not like I'm losing sleep over it. I'd be a real freak if I were.

I didn't know his speech writer was LDS. That could explain the mildness of the speech.

All my reactions should be subject to the disclaimer that I already don't like the current administration and even though I try to be unbiased, I'm still affected by it.

Cabeza said...

Perhaps the camera or the audio mic feed was positioned such that it made Cheney's applause seem louder?

Cabeza said...

And yes, that was Mollie Olorenshaw, formerly Bridgers. I told her to check out your review of Cheney's speech.

JKC said...

It could be that the mic or the audio was distorted in some way. I don't know enough about that kind of thing to have an intelligent opinion one way or another.

If the Shark says it wasn't louder, he's probably right, since he was actually there.