Pomp and circumstance

Bush as commencement speaker
It was a blustery day in late April when a colleague poked his head into my office and asked, “Have you heard the news? Nicholas Wolterstorff has been replaced as commencement speaker. George Bush is coming instead.”

It was an April day, but not April 1. An e-mail bulletin from the provost confirmed that this was no joke. The president of the United States had accepted the college’s invitation, or invited himself, to send the Calvin College class of 2005 off into their future lives with the benefit of presidential words of wisdom.

Republican congressman Vernon Ehlers, a former physics professor at Calvin, had extended an invitation, we were told. But such invitations must pile up many inches deep on some White House underling’s desk. Furthermore, Ehlers’s stubborn dissent from his party’s environmental and energy policies—areas of his own expertise—cannot have endeared him to a president for whom loyalty is the queen of all virtues.


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