PROVO, Utah - Vice President Cheney told Brigham Young University graduates yesterday to savor second chances and be prepared for the unexpected throughout life, in a commencement address that stirred up protests in one of the nation's most Republican states.
"Don't give up or let your doubts get the best of you," Cheney said. "For all the plans we make in life, sometimes life has other plans for us."
On a campus where dissent is unusual, about 100 people protested quietly ahead of Cheney's arrival, holding signs reading: "Mormon for peace" and "Make soup, not war."
Utah voters have consistently supported the administration, giving President Bush his largest margins of victory in any state in 2000 and 2004. In the county that is home to the university, about 85 percent of voters chose the GOP ticket in 2004.
But the war in Iraq has weakened that support. Cheney critics at Brigham Young have questioned whether he set a good example for graduates, citing his role in promoting faulty intelligence and his involvement in the CIA leak scandal.
Cheney's 14-minute address to more than 6,200 graduates didn't touch on political topics. He thanked the school's ROTC members for their service and said they'd be joining a military that is "a great force for justice, freedom and security."
Outside, the protesters on campus were not allowed to chant or make noise, said Darren Jackson, 22, president-elect of the College Democrats.
"This war has been mishandled," said Jackson, who said the Democratic group had about 25 active members, "which isn't much out of 30,000 students."
A handful of veterans holding a peace banner stood on a street corner off campus.
At the city library, College Republicans and others passed out U.S. flags and held up welcome signs. "We are just here to show there's a lot of support for the vice president in Provo," said Brigham Young student Colby Green, 22, of Orem.
That became clear when Cheney was introduced. He received thunderous applause from the 20,000 people gathered at the university, which is owned by the Mormon church. Cheney was awarded an honorary doctorate in public service before his speech.