Commencement 2023: the kids are all right

I’ve been through a lot of commencement ceremonies, and they all run together in my brain. It would be nice to say yesterday’s was exceptional, but it wasn’t — it was a joyous occasion, but it was much like many other well-run, appropriately managed events, and that’s good, because what you want out of this is respect and acknowledgement and a great send-off to all the students who are, we hope, going off to happy and successful lives.

As you might expect from a progressive liberal arts college, the program was pretty darned woke. The student body president, Dylan Young, is an American Indian from the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, and he gave an upbeat speech which touched on some of the unpleasantness of the last four years — the pandemic, an ugly incident in which conservatives plastered anti-gay and anti-trans posters all over campus, and the recent regent who whined about how we were “too diverse” — but emphasized student resilience. Our commencement speaker was Steve Inskeep, host of NPR’s Morning Edition, and he talked up liberal arts and small towns and hope for the future. The one I dreaded, the obligatory speech from a member of the Board of Regents (generally a stuffy lot of boring business people), was a pleasant surprise. Mike Kenyanya seemed to actually like and appreciate what the campus was all about. Maybe the regents aren’t all bad, after all.

It could have been so much worse. The University of Wyoming brought in Senator Cynthia Lummis as a commencement speaker, and she proceeded to give a god-soaked speech, dwelling on the Creator of the Declaration of Independence and fundamental scientific truths, such as the existence of two sexes…and got booed loudly. She was clearly taken aback.

Good work, students of the University of Wyoming. I don’t think our liberal students at a liberal university in a liberal state could have done a better job of expressing their displeasure. The only difference is that I think our administrators wouldn’t have brought in a disingenuous, dishonest loon like Lummis.


  1. Artor says

    It’s nice to see that even in Wyoming, bigots get booed on campus. I hope the coming generation transforms American society.

  2. Snarki, child of Loki says

    The RWNJ speakers shouldn’t be booed.
    They should be HISSED.

    They expect being booed, they revel in it; they don’t expect being hissed.

  3. Paul K says

    I graduated from UMM in 1984. Sheesh, nearly 40 years ago. I have a very positive feeling about my education there. My son just moved home for the summer last night after completing his four years at UW La Crosse. At least right now, he doesn’t have that positive feeling. Covid was part of that. But the growth of a culture of isolation and loneliness that young people are going through right now — due to Covid, fear of climate change, social media, political insanity, open bigotry, gun violence — has really been ignored by this college. When we went to visit it as a prospective school when our son was in high school, they really talked up their efforts at supporting the students socially and emotionally. I really feel like it was all just lip service. The school let him down again and again. With their Covid response; with the lack of any sort of actual support (he lived on campus all four years, and not one of his RAs did a lick of anything); with their platitudes like posters that read ‘You Belong Here’ as about the only effort to actually do anything to help students believe that. It just makes me sad that he’s home now, and is looking back on this experience with such a negative outlook. He told me that he wishes he was sad to be leaving this milestone in his life behind, but what he is actually sad about is that he has no reason to miss it.

    Sorry to dump this here. But it’s fresh, and this post the very next morning sort of slapped me emotionally. My son is a strong, thoughtful, good, caring person. He would have been one of those who booed that smarmy, arrogant bigot. He’s going to be okay. I just wish he could look forward to looking back on college with fondness, and he can’t.

  4. says

    …and got booed loudly. She was clearly taken aback.

    Reading the room is not a skill cultivated by these sorts of God-soaked, authoritarian types. Why would it be? You’re supposed to accept their statements unquestioningly.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    I am glad it was a joyous occasion.
    I am still going to make fun of your headgear, but that is just because I am an asshole.

  6. Doc Bill says

    MAGA commencement speakers should neither be hissed nor booed. They should be laughed at!

    Goons expect to be booed or hissed and they’ll stand there with their little shit-eating look-what-I-did Majorie Taylor Greene smile then complain about how uncivil the world has become, such lack of respect from all these Marxists.

    But laughter is tough to shake off, especially when they’re trying to be faux-serious. Laugh your heads off. It’s totally disarming. The goons will stand there with a puzzled look on their faces because they have no recourse. We need to laugh these goons off the stage.

    And, please, start with Scott Atlas who will be giving the commencement speech at New College, Florida, because not only did DeathSantis want to say “fuck you, students” by firing staff and administration, and revoking tenure, but he wanted to say “fuck you to infinity.” Sure, there will be a walk out, but the remaining students have an opportunity to humiliate this grifting quack. Please do!

  7. birgerjohansson says

    Felines are good at hissing. Maybe the kids can make an app with a neural network trained on the sound of cats about to pounce? I know I would be backing away slowly if I heard that sound.

  8. gijoel says

    I’m not making a comment about people who transition between sexes.

    The fuck you aren’t. American exceptionalism. You can have all the freedom you want, but only if you completely agree with me.

  9. lancefinney says

    It doesn’t really affect the broader point here, but FYI the Wyoming commencement speech and its reception happened last year.

  10. birgerjohansson says

    55 years after the summer of love, things are looking up again. The last followers of George Wallace and Richard Nixon are running out of steam.

  11. drsteve says

    Booing and hissing are too last millennium. Kids these days should greet transphobes, Christian nationalists, and other speakers of that ilk with the call of the bald eagle:

    If Loomis or anyone of her ilk find offense, the next step is to ask them why they hate America and its symbols of freedom so much. . .

  12. says

    That bigoted fool went straight from “our basic rights granted by our Creator” to a totally gratuitous dig at gender-nonconforming people. That’s a pretty good indicator of Retrumplitarian “thought” “processes” in general these days: lip-service to grand Founding-Fathers-y ideals (which they try to appropriate to their own stupid religion), then straight to divisive scapegoating and hatemongering. That’s all they have to offer anymore, so the sooner we can kick them all to the curb, the better off our species will be.

  13. says

    Maybe the kids can make an app with a neural network trained on the sound of cats about to pounce?

    That would be…silence.

  14. birgerjohansson says

    Fans of GAM will be familiar with the kind of instant out-loud laughter that crazy kook speeches deserve.

    Example: “David Icke says the problem is not the space lizards per se, only the jewish ones “

  15. StevoR says

    @12. drsteve : Problem with that is that it would likely just cause confusion and not be clearly a noise of disapproval – so could be taken the opposite wrong way. I doubt she’d know what it is tho’

    A few rude and loud chants OTOH..

  16. drsteve says

    @StevoR: Why do you hate Holocene Dinosauria and the freedom and other human values they symbolize so much?