Eric D. Snider

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Cheney speaks at BYU; lightning fails to strike

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Vice President Dick “Richard” Cheney’s visit to Brigham Young University’s commencement ceremony on Thursday passed smoothly and without incident, though there had been much controversy beforehand. The cantankerous, go-F-yourself-encouraging veep, known in some circles as Bush’s “attack dog,” came across as likable and pleasant in his address to graduates and their guests. He didn’t say anything controversial or political (I don’t think anyone expected him to; it wouldn’t be the right forum for that), and he even earned a couple of laughs.

You can hear his entire speech here. Note the places where he got the biggest applause: when he extended President Bush’s well wishes to the graduates, and when he mentioned BYU’s consistent ranking as No. 1 in the category of “stone-cold sober” colleges.

He cracked a few jokes at his own expense. He said that in his own college career, he nearly earned a doctorate, lacking only the dissertation. “I’ll get started as soon as I come up with a topic,” he said.

He mentioned his wife’s Utah Mormon ancestors and played to the crowd by mentioning BYU campus buildings and referring to them by their common, casual nicknames: “the Wilk” for the Wilkinson Center, “the H-Fac” for the Harris Fine Arts Center, etc. I was hoping against hope he would also mention “the Syphilis” (for SFLC, or Smith Family Living Center), but alas. Apparently that building was replaced with the Joseph F. Smith Building a couple years ago. It’s been a while since I’ve been on campus.

I had to laugh at the obvious pandering going on there, which I assume all graduation speakers do, not just Cheney. “Hey, BYU students! Wilk! Marb! Jell-O! Hike the Y! Cougareat! Eh? Eh?” It reminded me of one time when the Garrens Comedy Troupe was performing for a huge audience of Mormon teenagers who had convened at BYU from all over the country for a week-long conference. We needed to stall for 30 seconds, so Joel went to the microphone and said, “Anyone here from California?” The resultant cheers and applause killed half a minute and gave us the time we needed.

Anyway, Cheney’s speech was fine. If it were all I knew about him or his politics, I would think: Hey, here’s a friendly old coot who knows how to work a crowd but who sounds pretty sincere, too. Here’s a guy I wouldn’t mind hearing more from. Of course, it’s not all I know about him or his politics, and I’m not a supporter of Cheney or his boss, but I have to say, he gave a nice, enjoyable commencement address.

He got a standing ovation, naturally, including from LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. Either President Hinckley was just being polite, or he personally is a Bush administration supporter. Probably the latter. I’m not surprised or bothered, any more than most Mormons would be surprised or bothered to learn that President Hinckley’s No. 3 man, James E. Faust, is a full-on Democrat. Lots of people I respect and admire are Bush supporters. Besides, President Hinckley is a Mormon and a male in his 90s, so he’s used to being in the minority.

9 Responses to “Cheney speaks at BYU; lightning fails to strike”

  1. Andrew D Says:

    I enjoyed that closing sentence very much.

  2. David Manning Says:

    “Richard.” Hahahah!

  3. Curtis Gibby Says:

    I thought it was interesting that this Salt Lake Tribune story pointed out that Cheney basically re-used a graduation speech he gave at Auburn two years ago, just plugging in those local items you mentioned.

  4. Audrey Says:

    “Hey, BYU students! Wilk! Marb! Jell-O! Hike the Y! Cougareat! Eh? Eh?�

    This made me laugh so hard! Well, this and the idea of Cheney speaking of the SFLC, which really would have been awesome. I miss that place. Good old Spanish study groups in the “syphilis lounge”…

  5. JL Says:

    Cheney could have further personalized his address by dropping the acronyms “DTR” and “NCMO”–both of which I’ve never heard outside of Utah–and the oh so popular phrase of frustration, “Oh my heck!”

  6. Jettboy Says:

    One thing I really dislike about BYU events when someone of significants and “politically aligned” status of most of the student body speaks, is the loud and gratuitous applause. The wonderful speech by Margaret Thatcher is still overpowered in my memory by the loud, frequent, and obnoxious clapping at every other sentence. In some ways it is a type of non-organized, but allowed, forms of student demonstrations. Reading the speech afterwords, or maybe if someone could edit out the applause, would be much more enjoyable.

    Somewhere I read that applause at BYU is meant differently than at other places. Can’t remember where I read that, or what the differences were. All I know is that BYU students drive me crazy when they show approval. At times it isn’t even dignified. Oh well, I thought the demonstrations against Cheney’s visit were equally undignfied and in poor taste.

  7. Mark B. Says:

    It turns out all those folks are Democrats after all. I mean, they cheered for Bush and they whooped and hollered for Cheney.

    And Bush and Cheney have done more to resurrect the old dead Democrats than Hillary and Barak together. No more Republican Congress. No more Republican Presidency (after 2008). No more budget surplus. No more shrinking government.

    So, they’re what all those right-leaning folks have been complaining about for years, RINOs!

  8. Mark Brinton Says:

    I am not surprised to hear that Cheney’s address was a retread of one given earlier. I heard Wm F. Buckley speak at ASU in 1975 and he gave the same address at BYU about a year later. Why change the script when the speaker is the only attendee in common? Because EDS speaks so highly of it, however, I suppose I’ll listen to it. I remain highly irritated, however, that thanks to this man’s (plus Bush/Rumsfeld) decision to conduct this war on the cheap and with poor intelligence, our fatalities continue to soar, while the rest of the nation is nearly oblivious to these soldiers’ ultimate sacrifice because this administration is too myopic to request, inspire or impose any form of national sacrifice.

  9. Jacob Says:

    The Garrens performed for EFY? Cool.

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