Should I attend my commencement?
April 28, 2005 10:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to graduate in a week or two and, well, I don't think the person who is rumored to be doing the address ought to be respected. At all really. I was just planning on not attending, but I'm not really sure if that's right. Should I go and shut up? Go and make a scene? Not go at all?

I don't care about whether you agree with my position on Cheney or not really. Pretend it's somebody you don't think deserves respect. I just don't know what I should do. My parents probably want to see me graduate, and that's really the only reason I'd care to go at all at this point. They suggested that I turn my chair around when he speaks, I don't know if I have the guts to do it honestly. I really wish they'd just have some good ole boy, whose horrifying immoral activities I'd be much less aware of, speak like they usually do. This place is just no good sometimes.
posted by SomeOneElse to Law & Government (63 answers total)
 
Bring an iPod?

This is a tricky one, actually. I would tell you to skip it, except that I can understand why you feel obligated to go: the graduation ceremony is in a way more for the parents than for the graduates (who would most likely rather just get drunk). It's really not too much to put up with if you think your parents would enjoy it.

There will likely be an organized non-disruptive protest. Perhaps you can participate in that.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:06 PM on April 28, 2005


It's really not like causing a disruption is going to do anything to make the guy stop being an asshole.

If your parents are all hot to see you graduate, you probably should just swallow your disgust and maybe space out when he's talking. Or bring a GameBoy.
posted by cmonkey at 11:07 PM on April 28, 2005


A professor at a college where Bush is giving the commencement address says he plans to attend, but read a book during the speech. He's planning on reading My Pet Goat*. and I second your parents' suggestion. Turn your chair around and read My Pet Goat. Or the Tagabu Report.

* "My Pet Goat" is actually a story within the book Reading Mastery II: Storybook 1
posted by orthogonality at 11:08 PM on April 28, 2005


Imagine it's Hillary Clinton (or someone you do respect)instead of Dick Cheney and the grad sitting next to you feels about Hillary the way you do about Cheney. How would you want them to behave? (the grad sitting next to you, that is) Do that.
posted by zanni at 11:14 PM on April 28, 2005


At my graduation in 2001, Madeleine Albright was the speaker for one of the events. Lots of folks were pissed about this, and organized florescent diamond signs for the top of their caps. When she spoke, all of the people participating in the 'protest' took off their caps and held them top-out in front of them, so that if you looked up into the auditorium, you saw all of these bright diamonds with little slogans on them. Outside, there were vehemently loud protesters who weren't really affiliated with the school. At one point, when talking about free speech, she referenced them and went silent for a moment so we could hear what they were saying. That tact was far more effective than the protesters, I'd say. All of this is to say that it's possible to attend, listen, and still peacefully represent that you personally don't agree with the choice of the speaker, or his/her views. Others might argue that the graduation isn't really the place to voice your opinion; if not then, when? I agree with the posters above: bring a book, turn around, bow your head, close your eyes, wear sunglasses or an iPod or tune out, but go. I'm not a crowd person, and I hate rah-rah stuff, but graduation weekend was actually kind of fun, and I'm glad I went. I'd still take her over Cheney though, so I'm not much help here!
posted by fionab at 11:25 PM on April 28, 2005


Speak truth to power, you don't get many chances.

Gentility is overrated and frequently confused with human decency.
posted by inksyndicate at 11:26 PM on April 28, 2005


I like what zanni said, but i would turn the chair around. As long as you are not disrupting your neighboring grads (too much) you should be fine. Book and headphones/earplugs optional.
posted by schyler523 at 11:29 PM on April 28, 2005


You could wait for him to say something particularly outrageous and then stand and turn your back to him... That way you could build up the guts over time, you wouldn't be as disruptive over the length of the event, and I think it might be a more powerful statement too...

Of course if he doesn't say anything outrageous you are out of luck, but what are the chances of that...
posted by Chuckles at 11:48 PM on April 28, 2005


Yes, if your chair is movable, just turn it around and remain seated. And bring something to read so you don't have to bother with folks in the audience who'll be staring at you.

inksyndicate is simply wrong here; never forget that an invited graduation speaker - however (in)famous - is always of secondary importance to the graduates themselves. If you meet anyone who insists that a protest be disruptive rather than silent, just think of the grandparents who have travelled for hours to see the first member of their family graduate from a university. Rest assured there will be some. The choice of graduation speaker pales in comparison to the importance of the moment for those grandparents. Anyone who can't see that (and, unfortunately, that too often includes the speaker him- or herself) is a goddamn fucking jerk.

Don't bother standing, btw, except perhaps as you turn the chair around. It won't take long on your feet before you'll realize you're better off seated, so just relax and read sitting down for as long as Cheney bloviates.
posted by mediareport at 11:53 PM on April 28, 2005


Oh, and the perfect moment to move your chair is during the applause as the speaker takes the podium after being introduced. It's the perfect mix of disdainful to the speaker but respectful of the ceremony in honor of your fellow graduates and their family members.

If you can't move the chair, then sitting with the book clearly visible at eye level, blocking your view of the speaker, would work as well. Imagine the effect of that kind of protest, with hundreds of open books being read, silently, during Cheney's speech. The message couldn't be more clear, without sparking a furiously outraged response.
posted by mediareport at 11:59 PM on April 28, 2005


I like mediareport's idea (books at eye level) better than turning chairs around.
posted by schyler523 at 12:19 AM on April 29, 2005


Another vote for turning around if possible. I suspect you won't be the only one. Stay calm, focus on something else (bringing a book is a great idea; so is wearing sunglasses), and don't take the bait when others around you try to call you out, as they inevitably will. Go you!
posted by scody at 12:22 AM on April 29, 2005


Do you disagree that Cheney should be respected, or do you think he should be actively disrespected?

If you simply think he is overrated, then go to your graduation and sit through it as though you would sit through a boring professor's lecture. Listen politely, but don't offer any undue respect.

However, if you actively disrespect Cheney, think through your planned actions very carefully. If you actively disrespect him, chances are good that he has done something to earn your disresepct. You are being given a unique opportunity to study the guy more closely than most people do. Do you want to use this opportunity to learn more about what he thinks, or do you just want to express how you feel? Do you primarily want to express your feelings to those around you, or to Mr. Cheney himself?

Think carefully about what you believe, what you would like to learn, and what you would like to express.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:31 AM on April 29, 2005


Attending does not mean you respect the speaker. So you can go and sit quietly, knowing it doesn't automatically confer respect points on Cheney. Disruption would be actively disrespectful, and since you're not the only one graduating, could piss off some graduates. This is a shared occasion, and I'm sure not everyone who will attend shares your sentiments.

If you want to make a non-disruptive (or minimally disruptive) statement, organize a good chunk of the graduates to stand up as soon as Cheney begins his speech and remain standing for the duration.

Silent forms of protest are aften the most effective.
posted by pmbuko at 1:13 AM on April 29, 2005


oop... serves me right for replying before reading
posted by pmbuko at 1:16 AM on April 29, 2005


I, too, had Madeleine Albright speak at my graduation in 2003. The students who disagreed with her stood during her speech and turned their backs to her. By doing this they sent the clear message that they didn't agree with her actions, but, retained respect of the ceremony itself.
posted by a22lamia at 2:44 AM on April 29, 2005


You're not hearing Dick Cheney speak, you're hearing The Vice President of the United States speak. No matter what you think of the person, you should recognize and respect the office that they hold.

Don't do something stupid and act out. Don't turn your chair around.

In 15 or 20 years, you don't want to look back on this and have the strongest memory of the day be the fact that you did something foolish. You want it to be the memory of your graduation and the recognition of the hard work you've accomplished over the past several years.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:22 AM on April 29, 2005


What did Madeleine Albright do wrong?
posted by PenDevil at 4:03 AM on April 29, 2005


If you go out of your way to actively show your disrespect for someone, you risk disrespecting everybody else present.

Graduation is about the graduates, not some guest speaker. The grand ceremony is not about the actual ceremony but the achievement it symbolizes -- the hard work you and your fellow students have done, the support of your glowingly proud family and friends, and everything your professors taught you. How would they feel if you pulled a wildly disrespectful stunt after all that? How respectable would you appear? I ask you, is it really worth it?

If you really don't want to hear what this speaker has to say, then just don't listen. Pack a pair of ear-plugs.

(Whether or not you make grandiose gestures of putting them in and taking them out is entirely your prerogative!)
posted by Lush at 4:44 AM on April 29, 2005


I understand your concern. We recently had Cheney AND GWB at LSU as well. And now, since we have Sean O'Keefe as the chancellor, it almost feels like we're getting lowballed this semester (he's also speaking at the commencement). It just seems that if you go to a southern state school you're not going to get anything edgy or altogether interesting (if you're left of center).

My advice? Go and listen if you want to walk (for your folks), or stay at home if that's not important enough to you. Sometimes we just have to suck it up.
posted by kuperman at 5:12 AM on April 29, 2005


I like these responses. Silent protests *are* more powerful. If graduation is important to you, then go, but make your feelings known, but not so loudly that you disrupt the whole thing for everyone. I went to college at a place where activism was the norm, and there were times that the activism pulled focus in a way that ended up making the protesters look like fools... and that hardly makes a real point. It just increases the resentment towards activists. So bring reading material or turn your chair around. Don't do something that will make the ceremony so uncomfortable for YOU that you don't have the emotional strength to snap back when the REAL event -- your graduation -- occurs.
posted by abbyladybug at 5:13 AM on April 29, 2005


You're all better people than I am. I was so hung over at my graduation that I was barely aware of who was speaking. I don't think I could have physically stood up and turned my chair around even if it were Pol Pot up at the podium.
posted by alidarbac at 5:22 AM on April 29, 2005


I really agree with the notion of being respectful, with at most, some very well-orchestrated protest that acknowledges the meaning of the ceremony. The question is less about being respectful to Cheney than it is about being respectful to the other graduates and their families.
posted by OmieWise at 5:25 AM on April 29, 2005


cool someone else from alabama!

cmon man, you've been dealing with dumb ass alabama scopes monkey trial ten commandments bullshit before this? just suck it up or dont go. you were right, this place sucks sometimes, but you have to just focus on the positives and grit your teeth and think about the good things of your college and your friends and whatnot.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 5:51 AM on April 29, 2005


Cheney will likely be involved in other activities in the area as well. Go and protest one of those if you want to.

Turning your back on him or spinning your chair around seem very, well, I want to say precious and twee but that's not exactly right. Bringing a book to read is generally a good idea for any college graduation ceremony, but holding it up so as to cover your face will get uncomfortable muy fast.

I'd show up, sit quietly without pulling any stunts, and then mock Cheney mercilessly when you have lunch/supper with your folks after graduation.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:28 AM on April 29, 2005


Unless you are looking for a reason not to attend, don't let the unfortunate choice of a speaker deprive your parents (and you) of the ceremonial closure you've earned. Don't give Dick Cheney that kind of power over you.

He's going to spend 15 minutes telling you how much you've accomplished and maybe quoting from "The Road Less Traveled" or something. Bring some iPod headphones (the white stands out nicely from a distance) and a book - maybe this one.
posted by aaronh at 6:33 AM on April 29, 2005


You're not hearing Dick Cheney speak, you're hearing The Vice President of the United States speak. No matter what you think of the person, you should recognize and respect the office that they hold.
You can express your disdain for the holder of the office without disrespecting the office itself. Withholding applause, remaining seated or even turning your back to him are expressing your disrespect for the person, not the office. Loud attention getting displays seem disrespectful of the office itself as well as disrespectful of the other graduates (which seems more important to me)
posted by substrate at 6:38 AM on April 29, 2005


It's your graduation. Your day. Don't let Dick Cheney ruin it. Envision all the above scenarios, then do the one which makes you most comfortable.

By the way, congratulations!
posted by Abby's mom at 6:40 AM on April 29, 2005


I would say skip graduation, not because of Cheney, but because graduation ceremonies are lame.

If you do go, though, you should act like an adult and sit through whatever he has to say. Protest is great, and I hate Cheney as much as the next guy, but I dont think a graduation ceremony is the time/place for it.
posted by drobot at 6:51 AM on April 29, 2005


Is there going to be some kind of organized protest by other students at your school? In order for a protest to be even minimally effective, it has to be three things:

1) It has to make the protesters look more rational than the person or thing they are protesting against
2) It has to demonstrate broad support
3) It has to make a specific, actionable point. "I don't want to listen to you because I think you're evil" is not either specific or actionable, although it might very well be true.

(On a personal note, I think that we got to the place we are today in America because nobody really listens to what these guys are saying, so, for me, a protest which involved ignoring the speaker (ipod, book) would be right out.)

I'd strongly encourage you to find other students who feel as you do, and come up with a plan together in order to make your protest most effective. Work together to first figure out what specific, actionable goal you would (in an ideal world) like your protest to achieve (Cheney would resign, 50 members of the audience change their party affiliation, educating the audience about civilian casualties in Iraq), and then figure out the best way to, as a group, achieve your goal while doing so in a way that demonstrates respect for those who agree with Cheney.

Zanni's point above is an excellent one - the easiest way for a protest to backfire is for people watching to feel pity for the person being protested against, to feel that their personal values are being attacked, or for the protesters to behave in ways that seem crazy, irrational, or rude. The best way to get people to agree with your point is for you to convince them that your actionable point agrees with their core values.

The best protest at this type of event I ever saw involved hundreds of high school students who had made bright yellow placards that were fairly small (about 5 x 7 inches) which said in bold black print THAT'S NOT TRUE. Every time the speaker said something the students knew or believed to be factually untrue, they'd hold up the cards.

This worked great because a) it showed they were listening and had educated themselves about the issue involved and b) they demonstrated that they only disagreed with part of what the speaker said, which gained them points for not having a knee-jerk reaction.

Thus, if Cheney says "I'm honored to be able to speak to you today" you're not protesting that, but when he says "America is the strongest and safest it has ever been" then you can (as a group) say back to him "that's not true".

Again, I strongly urge you to organize! And, if you do go a route that involves cards or signs, be sure to bring enough so that people who want to join in the day of can easily join -- most protests in this type of venue will pick up large numbers of participants who had been too busy thinking of other things to get involved until this very moment.

Organize! and Good Luck.
posted by anastasiav at 7:16 AM on April 29, 2005


Yes, definitely organize. Congratulations on your graduation. And be sure to let us know what you end up doing. Send us a link to some pictures or something.
posted by mds35 at 7:22 AM on April 29, 2005


To me, just because turning a chair around doesn't make a lot of noise doesn't mean that it's non disruptive. Lots of grandmas and mothers and little brothers and people in general will think that you are drawing attention towards yourself and your own opinion of Cheney and disrupting the ceremony by upsetting the audience members who notice.

Protest before. Protest after. But getting John Filiberti's great-aunt Melda all in a tizzy because someone "screwed up the ceremony by turning his chair the wrong way" is kind of rude to her.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:36 AM on April 29, 2005


Go and behave yourself. It's not about the speaker, it's about accomplishment - yours and your classmates.
posted by cptnrandy at 7:59 AM on April 29, 2005


I agree with 23skidoo, and all others who said save your protests for any time but the ceremony. If you don't care enough to organize something real, then I don't think you care enough to disrupt something lots of people put time and money toward (not just the education itself, but all the money toward graduation stuff- my parents are flying across the country to come to mine). Don't protest just to protest. If some gross punks try to ruin my gradation, I will be wicked pissed (but I imagine it'll happen- my school has a lot of rich-kid-wannabe-revolutionaries.)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:01 AM on April 29, 2005 [1 favorite]


You've gotten a lot of bum advice, imho. Go or don't go -- nobody's forcing you to go. But if you do go, you have implicitly obligated yourself to follow the "rules" of the ceremony, which (for better or worse) demand a certain amount of decorum. The seats are pointed towards the podium for a reason. The crowd is quiet when the commencement speaker (or anyone else) speaks for a reason. It's not about you, it's not about Dick Cheney. It's about the ceremony. If you have a problem with Cheney (more power to you!), just stay home -- don't fuck up the ceremony itself.

(on preview: what captnrandy just said)
posted by pardonyou? at 8:07 AM on April 29, 2005


What most people here are saying--organize some kind of silent, non-disruptive protest. Protesters do their cause great damage when they act like screaming 2-year-olds. A classy quiet protest, on the other hand, could make people think. And whatever you do, be sure that it makes good television!

On preview: And don't let Cheney and his evil be the definition of your day. You worked hard, this is a big moment (especially for your parents!) and you should savor it.
posted by LarryC at 8:09 AM on April 29, 2005


Perfect answer anatasiav. The school is composed of students. You pay the tuition and you are the ones graduating. This ceremony is for you--not for your parents, or your grandparents, or your school administrators. The speaker at the graduation ceremony should have something valuable to say. If you do not believe that the speaker is valuable, it is your responsibility to convey that to the administration of your school.

Fuck Great Aunt Melda. And Great Uncle Sam and all them killers.

If you sit and do nothing you are silently assenting to Cheney's policies along with the zombie majority of this country.
posted by crapulent at 8:10 AM on April 29, 2005


Suck it up. College is supposed to prepare you for the real world. If you're going into any kind of business field, then you should look forward to a lifetime of sitting silently and biting your tongue while some loathesome scumbag spews forth turds of "wisdom". Might as well get warmed up now.
posted by Optamystic at 8:11 AM on April 29, 2005


If you sit and do nothing you are silently assenting to Cheney's policies along with the zombie majority of this country.

I think this statement could not be more wrong.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:14 AM on April 29, 2005


it's probably too late for this ... but i would have looked into organizing an alternative ceremony somewhere else ... empty chairs and the knowledge that hundreds of graduates are somewhere else because of the speaker would say more than anything else people could do ...

my view on what you should do is simple ... you and your classmates should wear kerry or democratic party buttons to the ceremony ... don't be rude or disruptive, but simply wear the button with pride ... it won't ruin the ceremony, it isn't disrespectful to the speaker and yet it will plainly indicate your disapproval
posted by pyramid termite at 8:44 AM on April 29, 2005


I quite like the sign-on-caps idea. I suggest flourescent orange poster board in the shape of a thumbs-down or other obvious symbol. And organizing it is a good idea.

Simply holding them at face level, directed toward the podium, will suffice for protest. You remain seated and quiet, which honours the ceremony, while directly communicating with the speaker.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:26 AM on April 29, 2005


I appreciate this, and I'm not surprised that so many people would say not to ruin a ceremony. I do feel like I ought to do something though, and I like the book idea best of what I've heard so far. It's enough to make a point but not enough to get me dragged out or ruin the ceremony for everybody else.

I recognize that it is kind of petty and disrespectful to the event itself to screw it up, but I'm sorry, I just feel like it is disrespectful to the event to invite somebody like Dick Cheney. Really, if they had invited someone who had worked to, say, make abortions illegal his/her whole life, but hadn't done anything that I felt ruined their ability to be respected as an individual, I might mutter "bullshit" under my breath while they talked, but I wouldn't DO anything because I just disagree with their position. With Cheney it's more that I think he's a disgrace to the country who doesn't deserve the respect of me, or my fellow graduates, or anybody really. And I agree that you don't get many chances, (especially with the new town hall style meetings and pre-organized publicity stunts), to tell truth to power. (That's what I'm more worried about really, I think they're planning to have extremely high security and searches of bags and who knows what at this thing). And I'm more worried that if I look back on this I'll feel like a coward than a jackass honestly.

I think also that while I could participate in an organized protest, (although there might not be one, if there is it might not be very big, and I don't think it will be in a place where it will be seen), there is something just wrong about staying in the "free speech zones" to protest, and having those places be chosen by those in power to ensure that your message has no impact.

As for pretending it's Hillary. If some republican friend of mine really believed that the Clintons were a stain on the honor of the US/White House, and the commencement that chose to honor them I wouldn't mind if they did something. Signs and back-turning aren't out of the question here.
posted by SomeOneElse at 9:34 AM on April 29, 2005


Really wish I could edit it to take the two "more worried about"s out. I should have written that all in one go instead of picking around.
posted by SomeOneElse at 9:43 AM on April 29, 2005


You're not hearing Dick Cheney speak, you're hearing The Vice President of the United States speak. No matter what you think of the person, you should recognize and respect the office that they hold.

This is bad advice from the ill-intentioned play-along crowd. If you buy into it, you buy into the silencing of your own disapproval. You will have effectively been persuaded that our power structure is unassailable, that there are positions of strength which cannot and should not be challenged. This is false. Good citizenship requires tests and challenges of our power structures.

The man is the office, which changes with its occupant, reflects its occupant's behaviors, and is only an artifice constructed by the will of the people. The office of president or vice president does not automatically deserve your respect as a citizen: you are not beholden to the men nor the office any way. The power of those offices is yours to control, yours to change, yours to protest, and yours to take back. To accomplish the most good, protest both the man and the office.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:52 AM on April 29, 2005


Be a witness. Call your local paper in advance and tell them you would like to report on the event from a dissenting student position; then go, take notes, and write an essay or a letter to the editor on why you think he was a poor choice; include your reaction; how other dissenters reacted; Have most of it prepared in advance - write about the conflict you and other students feel and get quotes from other students who also think it is a poor choice; then add in reactions to his comments and observations about any protests that occur.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:02 AM on April 29, 2005


As an adult, the world will cut you slack for being an ass only so many times; therefore, you should save these occasions for times it might make a difference. This is not one of them.
posted by kindall at 11:02 AM on April 29, 2005


Make a sign that says, simply, "NO". Only bust it out if he says something particularly infuriating. Then put it down again until the next horrifying statement. If possible, get other people to do the same thing.

That way you don't commit yourself to either embarrassment or disrespect ahead of time, but you respond appropriately to any extra special jackassery he decides to indulge in that day. I mean, who knows, he might actually be civil and level-headed in his speech! The man is, after all, devious.
posted by gurple at 11:06 AM on April 29, 2005


kindall... eh? I mean, we don't have to look any farther than the speaker that's the subject of this thread to find a contradiction to your "rule"
posted by gurple at 11:07 AM on April 29, 2005


As an adult, the world will cut you slack for being an ass only so many times; therefore, you should save these occasions for times it might make a difference. This is not one of them.

That is to say, you should either go and participate normally, or not go at all.
posted by kindall at 11:08 AM on April 29, 2005


Senator Jim Bunning spoke at a dinner I attended several years ago. I went because a friend of mine was getting an award. It was a huge mistake. I could not sit and listen to Bunning's lies, try as I might. I disagreed with the substance of every remark he made. I finally had to excuse myself and leave.

You will be miserable if you attend this event. Do yourself a favor. SKip it, and participate in an alternative activity with people whose company you enjoy. You've earned the right to enjoy "your day," so make it enjoyable!
posted by tizzie at 11:31 AM on April 29, 2005


Keep in mind that if Cheney's making a speech at your school, he has an agenda. He's not there to honor you: he's there to make a point about social security or foreign policy or about doing away with the judicial filibuster. National politicians do not go to commencements without something political to say.

In that context, turning your chair around is appropriate; you're at an event that has been made political against your will, and you're expressing disapproval in a quiet manner. Doing something like reading a book is actually more rude since someone might do that just because they're bored and uncouth.

On the other hand, I can see how it's a tough gesture to make, and no one should fault you for just sucking it up and sitting quietly. I barely remember my college graduation, but if I were looking back at the position you're in, I think I'd be more pleased at the notion that I stood up for my beliefs than at the notion that I'd behaved the way people expected me to.
posted by anapestic at 11:32 AM on April 29, 2005


Maybe you should just stand up and excuse yourself at some point while he is speaking. People do need to go to the washroom after all... If you aren't too dainty about it you are bound to be noticed. Once your out you don't have to face the derision of the rest of the audience, but you do leave an empty chair.

If you had 10% of the audience walk out at various times it might be pretty effective.
posted by Chuckles at 11:48 AM on April 29, 2005


I'm torn on the idea of actively protesting during the speech (although I'd argue against being disruptive, as that just serves to piss off other attendees). If you decide to read in your seat (forward or backward), I'd recommend a newspaper instead of a book. It is more visible, and you can use it to block the speaker from your field of view. As a bonus, you can hand extra sections/pages to interested people nearby.
posted by i love cheese at 12:30 PM on April 29, 2005


I'm with anapestic inasmuch as it depends on what Cheney speaks about. If he gives your typical graduation-type speech then maybe, as pardonyou? says, "it's not about Dick Cheney. It's about the ceremony."

But if his speech is a self-aggrandizing or self-serving bunch of political crap, then it is about Dick Cheney, and some sort of silent protest would not be out of line in my opinion.
posted by pitchblende at 1:29 PM on April 29, 2005


Modify your mortarboard to look like an oil rig :)

I've sat through particularly odious graduation speeches over the years and it's no fun even when you don't personally disdain the speaker. And while I am inclined to be respectful to a speaker I still, to this day, regret that when my college's president took a moment to recognize former Hialeah Mayor and extortionist Raul Martinez in the audience that I did not scream "CRIMINAL" at the top of my lungs.

So, if you're really all that cranked, I just wanted to be a counterpoint to the people who commented on looking back years from now with regret. Maybe you'll regret doing nothing. But I do think there's something to be said for not being a dick to the people in the audience who are perfectly tickled not only because of DC but for a host of other reasons as well.

To make a long story marginally less long, were I you I would put in my headphones when he takes the stand, express your disdain by simply staying seated and not applauding, and take the 'phones back out when he's done.

Then write a nasty letter to the school asking why they wouldn't try to get a person who perhaps more than 51% of the school could be enthused and happy about.
posted by phearlez at 1:41 PM on April 29, 2005


Though there are some solemn aspects to the occasion, graduation is mostly a celebration for the graduates and a welcoming into the hooded fraternity of those in front of the podium by those on it. As such it is can be treated as a light hearted event -- in my day there was the intermittent pop of champagne corks by those who had smuggled bottles into the auditorium, people throwing streamers, and spontaneous chanting (liberal arts majors, "We had fun;" engineering majors, "We've got jobs;" communications majors, "We had sex!"). No need to make an already slightly pompous event even more overblown.

If the VP is there there will be searches, so the champagne is probably out, so what I would suggest would be a pocket full of uninflated balloons (no trouble with the metal detector). You could have a political message on them if you want, but pretty colors would be just fine, or even better "congratulations, graduate" balloons in your school colors. During the speechifying quietly inflate them and send them off to be bounced around by the crowd. Better yet if you can persuade lots of others to do the same thing -- imagine all those balloons being gently batted about by all those happy graduates. If Cheney is giving a standard graduation speech it fits right in with the mood, if he is giving a political speech he deserves the distraction.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 3:00 PM on April 29, 2005


I don't think Dick Cheney is going to go home and cry himself to sleep because a bunch of college students silently protested his address duing a commencement exercise. I don't think any kind of protest will make the least bit of difference to him. The man is just not sensitive to that sort of thing. He already knows you don't like him. He KNOWS already.

If you want to convince your college officials to book a better, less controversial brand of commencement speaker, the time to do that is well before the exercises actually start. Any sort of look-at-me-i'm-so-upset activity during the ceremony is just going to look petulant, self-absorbed, and unserious to 50-year-old white guys.
posted by tew at 3:43 PM on April 29, 2005


Then again pretty much anything a twenty-something graduating senior does is "just going to look petulant, self-absorbed, and unserious to 50-year-old white guys" like Dick Cheney. Except, just possibly, joining the Marines, but then they'll take you seriously only as cannon fodder.

Might as well have some mildly ironic fun -- serious protest will get you arrested, and nothing you do as an individual is likely to dissuade the university administration thinking that they gain prestige from having the VP as speaker (unless you have a large enough trust fund to dangle at them as bait).
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 4:45 PM on April 29, 2005


Don't be a prick. Don't go.

William & Mary's had both good and bad speaker-experiences in the last few years. Jon Stewart (an alum) spoke last year, and it was very well-received. Of course, he spoke about masturbation at the end of it, which was stupid. A few years back, Kissinger spoke, and a number of students raised a ruckus, which was stupid.

Good citizenship requires tests and challenges of our power structures.

That's true, but those challenges to the power structure should take place at the right place, at the right time, and in the right way. Otherwise, you could say "throwing eggs at Cheney's house" is an effective form of protest. It'd be about as effective as making a scene at the graduation.

Seriously, graduation is long and, unless you're into the pomp and circumstance, is pretty boring. I'd advise you to use the time to go out to lunch with your folks (all of the restaurants around the college will be empty, as students have either gone home or are in the ceremony).

ThePinkSuperhero had really good advice upthread.
posted by Alt F4 at 5:57 PM on April 29, 2005


You're not hearing Dick Cheney speak, you're hearing The Vice President of the United States speak. No matter what you think of the person, you should recognize and respect the office that they hold.

I think that's hilariously naive and awful advice. As anapestic noted, Cheney almost certainly will have a carefully written political tilt to his speech, but even if he doesn't, U.S. citizens hardly live in a monarchy. Our politicians are people with whom we are perfectly free to disagree vehemently. That said, it's important to clarify that everyone who gives a crap about Great Aunt Melda's feelings is not automatically part of Mo Nickels' "ill-intentioned play-along crowd." This is about *balancing* communal and personal responsibility (almost always a fairly complex task). Those who simplistically suggest that the only options are not going or going and pretending to like it are thinking like simpletons.

If graduates are allowed to cheer comments from the speaker with which they agree, then there is also a directly implied right for graduates to express *disagreement* with comments they find disagreeable. Yes, it should be done in a way that honors the social elements of the ceremony that have nothing whatsoever to do with the speaker. But the speaker is there, and if the speaker makes outrageous assumptions about the opinions of some of the graduates and their families, then those members of the audience are being disrespected (at least as much as those annoyed by silent protest), and those members are well within their rights to make their feelings known in a visible but non-disruptive way.

After reading the many thoughtful responses in this thread, I'd modify my suggestions:

1. Avoid turning your chair around; it's unnecessarily disruptive.
2. Listen to the speech and hold off on protesting until you hear a specific comment you think is appalling, insensitive, a lie or insulting to you and your family.
3. Make a disgusted sound, pull out a book, and start reading. Hold it high at first, for a while, or don't.
4. Try to organize this kind of protest (it will be more effective if by the end of Cheney's talk many folks are obviously reading), but don't hesitate to be the only one doing it if organization falls through.

There. I think that strikes the proper balance between the conflicting impulses inherent in this kind of event. And again, anyone who says you only have two options - suck it up or don't go - is being an overly simplistic fool.
posted by mediareport at 7:37 PM on April 29, 2005


I know SomeOneElse's school. Most of the white people I went to high school with ended up either there or at a branch campus of the same university. I myself attended classes at the branch campus for a little while. And I can tell you; maybe four people in attendance will object to Cheney's speech. Sure, if you took a poll, you'd probably find that a certain percentage (though less than the average for the country) of people there objected to the Iraq war on some level, but almost no one will express their dissent outwardly.

[Off-thread note to SomeOneElse: I just saw your post from the 25th, the one concerning your feelings about your college career. I know someone here in Montgomery who you might want to talk to. You'll find my email address in my profile; feel free to contact me.]
posted by Clay201 at 2:34 AM on April 30, 2005


If you're going into any kind of business field, then you should look forward to a lifetime of sitting silently and biting your tongue while some loathesome scumbag spews forth turds of "wisdom". Might as well get warmed up now.

You, sir, are part of the problem. The loathesome scumbags only get away with that because people let them. Don't let them.

The ceremony? Skip it. Unless you've got family traveling thousands of miles or something to come see you, it's not worth it. It's your day as much as it is anyone else's - screw the ceremony.
posted by Jesus Fucking Christ at 9:19 AM on April 30, 2005


Just because Dick Cheney won't understand or respect your protest doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Your self-expression is about it's meaning to you. Remember that the point of your protest is to show that you don't respect this man, not that you don't respect your school, your accomplishment, or your classmates. So do something that clearly has him as your target, and doesn't affect the ceremony or those around you.

Bending over forward so you're not facing him is a lot easier and less disruptive than turning your chair around, and works just as well for reading a book or listening to a portable music player. Don't do something like bring a sign or plan on doing something during the speech. For one it's disruptive to those around you, and for another it will take a lot more guts to follow through with, which will only make you feel worse if you don't. Passive protest is the best for this sort of situation.
posted by ElfWord at 9:29 PM on May 1, 2005


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