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An important day in Provo

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This promises to be a memorable day in Provo. Folks there of all political stripes should welcome Vice President Dick Cheney as he delivers the commencement address to Brigham Young University graduates. They also should realize that Cheney is a controversial figure at a pivotal time in U.S. history, a central character in the crafting and administration of policies that are shaping world events.

That has naturally led to protests and debates. Universities are supposed to be places where ideas are exchanged and considered, and where political philosophies are bantered. So long as the discussion remains civil, it is a positive thing. Anyone who won't listen to debate believes he or she has nothing to learn, which is a sad misconception.

Nor is it proper to show disrespect toward those who are bringing in speakers of their own to counter the vice president. This is a nation in which no single political philosophy or public-policy choice should be considered the last word.

However, it is equally important to recognize the vice president as a person worthy of respect. He, along with the president, was twice elected to the office. Having him speak to its graduates today is indeed an honor for BYU.

To be honest, most commencement addresses disappear from memory about as quickly as they are given. Graduates and their families, rightfully happy and proud, have other things on their minds. By contrast, this group of graduates certainly will be given something to remember.

By the time they graduate, university students ought to possess the skills to independently examine issues, measure them against their own sets of core values and reach intelligent conclusions. This has made some of the opposition to the vice president's visit a bit insulting. Cheney's speech is neither an endorsement from the university or its sponsoring church (which also owns this newspaper), nor is it a mandate for graduates to vote a certain way in the future.

It is not something to be feared. Rather, the vice president's speech will be a memorable send-off for graduates commencing a lifelong pursuit of learning.