Cheney talk a thrill for big BYU crowd
'I'll remember who spoke forever,' a graduate says
Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
PROVO Family and friends of Brigham Young University graduates braved lengthy lines and intense security measures for the 2007 commencement but the chance to hear Vice President Dick Cheney during Thursday's exercises is what most will remember.
"I'll remember who spoke at my (commencement) forever," said Sarah Parry, who graduated with a degree in English.
Attendees to the rites in the Marriott Center welcomed Cheney and President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with several minutes of thunderous applause.
Cheney was awarded an honorary doctorate degree and spoke briefly to the graduating class, at times referencing BYU specifics, such as the "Wilk" campus lingo for the Wilkinson Student Center. The vice president received laughs and applause as camera flashes went off like strobe lights at a disco party.
"We're such loyal Americans, so to be here and listen to a vice president is such an honor," said mother Sharon Hoem. "It was an added bonus we were coming anyway."
Her husband, Robert Hoem, added: "It's heavy, hot fudge, thick frosting on the cake."
The Hoems slathered on the sunscreen as they waited in line to get through security and into the Marriott Center. The Secret Service guarded each door where individuals had purses and bags searched, passed through a metal detector, then were inspected by another officer with a metal-detecting wand.
BYU informed commencement attendees they had to be in their seats by 3:30 p.m. The event began at 4 p.m.
While waiting, they were entertained by BYU performing groups and video clips of game-winning football passes that were shown on the large screens above the floor.
There were also sacks of goodies under the seats, something graduate Mackenzie Clark appreciated. She and fellow bachelor's degree graduate Wendy Madsen munched on their pretzels and BYU mint brownies for nearly three hours before waiting for the ceremony to begin.
"I think it's less political than people see it," Clark said. "It's someone in charge of our country. It's neat to get a name like that in Utah."
That sentiment was echoed by parents E.J. and Julia Harris.
"If the vice president was a Democrat, I don't think it'd make any difference," said E.J. Harris. "If Bill Clinton came, I'd still come. If it was Al Gore, I'd still come and not protest. It doesn't mean you have to agree with him."
And many don't. However, they kept their sentiments to themselves during the rites.
Cheney finished his speech to a standing ovation.
"Politically speaking, it's always important to listen to the opposite side, see both sides," said graduate Dave Geist. "It's just good to listen."
Jeff Larson, an assistant professor at BYU, said although he doesn't agree with Cheney's politics, it's "really about the office, not the person."
"Some people think it means BYU is not politically neutral, (but) I don't agree with that," he said.
The Partridge family said they were excited to not only see the vice president of the United States but also to see the security that accompanies such a visit."I think it's an honor to have him here," said Bonnie Partridge, whose son-in-law was graduating with a master's degree. "It's America and they can protest, but I'm thrilled."
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