Nerd in the Big House

3 05 2011

This originally appeared on the Michigan View after Saturday’s Commencement ceremony.

Ann Arbor – For thousands of newly-minted University of Michigan alumni, Saturday was an exciting day. Their commencement ceremony in the freshly-restored Big House launched them on a lifetime of opportunity. It was gratifying to watch so many of my friends celebrate the fruits of their years of hard work at U of M – and I can’t wait to join their ranks once I myself get around to graduating.

And despite noisy attempts by Big Labor to exploit the event for political theater, I’m also pleased to report that the graduates were honored with nary a partisan hitch.

Governor Snyder was met warmly, received his honorary law degree, and delivered his commencement address to an attentive audience. Yes, a few grumps – perhaps 2 percent of the graduating class – turned their backs on Snyder as he spoke, but lack of peer participation robbed their disruption of any meaning. By denying commentators like myself political red meat, the graduating Class of 2011 proved its maturity and demonstrated that perhaps all that pulpit-pounding about tolerance, respectful disagreement, and diversity (the cornerstone of modern higher education) actually sunk in.

Alas, the grown-up atmosphere that inside the Big House contrasted with the circus outside.

AnnArbor.com claims roughly 1,000 anti-Snyder protestors gathered Saturday morning at Pioneer High School – located across from Michigan Stadium – to air their grievances. This obnoxious attempt to politicize an apolitical, celebratory event would have been easy enough to ignore if it had ended on schedule at 9 AM.

Instead, the protesters decided that their demands outweighed recognition of the graduates, and the constant honking and chanting by the barbarians (“Recall Snyder!”) wafted over the gates of the Big House throughout the ceremony. A plane carrying a banner – “Gov. Snyder: Some Cuts Never Heal” – droned overhead.

At least the "It's for the Children" pretenses have (mostly) been dropped

If anyone but the progressives’ political ox is being gored, we’re expected to put aside political differences – the new civility! – and come together as a community. Yet threaten pensions or healthcare plans for government employee union members and no event is sacred.

I personally know educators and students opposed to Snyder and his plans for reform who were disgusted by the protesters. One wondered who they hoped to to impress by competing with graduates for attention. Their relentless, inappropriate politicking will not win them many allies as they battle against a harsh fiscal and political reality.

In the end, a small percentage of U of M graduates and their proud loved ones on this day will even remember the alleged controversy surrounding Snyder’s slection as commencement speaker – or the unbecoming conduct of his opponents at today’s event.

That’s not what today was about.

Today was a celebration of achievement. And no number of bullhorn-wielding malcontents could overshadow the Class of 2011’s success. Congratulations to all. Go Blue!

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