Good morning Austin:
Here are some screen shots from the streaming video of Gov. Abbott’s commencement address at the University of North Texas in Denton Saturday evening.
And here, via Anna Tinsley of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is why it really is still better to actually cover an event than watch a live stream from home.
Why the protest? Why all those empty seats?
Here’s the report from Dalton LaFerney, news editor of the North Texas Daily, the UNT student newspaper.
The university-wide mass commencement capped off the spring semester and finished the week of graduation ceremonies Saturday night, with a small group of Gov. Greg Abbott protestors asked to leave the Coliseum during his speech.
The Coliseum was nowhere near capacity, and about half of the floor seats, where the graduates sat, were empty. More than 4,000 students, the university said, graduated during ceremonies on Friday and Saturday, while about 300 to 400 students were in attendance Saturday for the mass commencement.
The commencement was originally slated to be held at Apogee Stadium. Forecasts earlier in the week predicted poor weather conditions Saturday during the outdoor commencement, so Smatresk decided to move the ceremony to the Coliseum. There were not any thunderstorms or drops of rain during the ceremony.
UNT President Neal Smatresk led the ceremony, noting the beginning of the university’s 125-year celebration. “This is the beginning of the big celebration for the university,” he said. UNT will officially mark 125 years in 2016.
Republican Gov. Abbott delivered his keynote address to the graduates uninterrupted by protests, which had been expected in the weeks leading up to the ceremony. When he was introduced by Smatresk, the crowd responded with applause. There was, however, a small group of silent protesters in the upper decks of Section E holding signs expressing disapproval of the governor. UNT police quickly removed the protesters, who then took up a brief protest outside the Coliseum.
Students from the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, the International Socialist Organization, TRIAD and the coalition for an Abbott-Free UNT participated in the protest.
“We believe that many of his policies are harmful to the student body here, specifically the most marginalized populations here,” Integrative studies senior Christy Medrano said.
Medrano said the banners addressed specific policies like House Bill 1403, which allows some undocumented students to pay in-state tuition.
“We figured that if we were peaceful and if we were cooperative that we would be able to stay but that is not the case, even after making sure that we made no noise, that we were the least disruptive group possible, we still got escorted out,” Medrano said. “We were told that we could not go back into the commencement to finish watching our friends graduate.”
One officer told the protesters they had been disrupting the ceremony.
Here is an earlier story from the Daily by features editor Nicholas Friedman.
UNT News confirmed to the North Texas Daily that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott would be the keynote speaker for the spring’s graduation commencement. This news comes after rumors earlier this week that actor Michael J. Fox was in consideration.
Students at UNT and the Denton community took to social media to voice their opinions on the decision. Most weren’t happy.
Andy Odom — not a UNT student — is the social media director for music festival 35Denton. He reached out to UNT President Neal Smatresk urging him to reconsider the decision to bring Abbott to campus.
Others cited UNT’s previous relationship with former gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and a seemingly liberal campus profile as a reason for reconsideration.
Some were excited about the prospect of the Governor choosing UNT. This is a first for the university, who previously didn’t have commencement speakers at graduation.
Here is the wording of the Change.org petition protesting Abbott’s appearance.
The University of North Texas’ student body is made up of students from all walks of life. Therefore, it is pivotal that our keynote speaker be someone who reflects not only our student population but our views on equality and representation. Governor Abbott is an advocate for immigration reform, border patrol, and anti-equal marriage laws. This does not align the spirit of the University of North Texas which prides itself in providing equal opportunities for their students. While Governor Abbott’s story is inspirational, his views on inequality cannot be overshadowed by this. Our Mean Green Pride comes from being heard and respected. Which is why we ask University President Neal Smatresk to find a new keynote speaker for graduation.
Angela Tarmichael LEWISVILLE, TX
Greg Abbott is terrible. He was elected by old conservative white people. His supporters do not represent the intellect or diversity of my alma mater. Wendy Davis should have won.
I’m signing this because I believe that the ENTIRE student body should be represented by someone they ALL love and admire. Not someone who is 100% conservative speaking at a majority liberal school.
jazmine Burnam HOUSTON, TX
I think michael j. fox has more qualifications than stupid gregg abbott. I mean most people at UNT hate gregg abbott so why would they invite him? Michael j. Fox is better.
Nicole Parker, Ph.D. NEW YORK, NY
As a UNT alum, I am concerned that my University would implicitly support a man with such an abominable record on women’s rights and gender equality. Pick a new speaker, one that will not alienate half of your student population, both past and present.
Susanna Sanchez LAS CRUCES, NM
Texas was stolen from Mexico and this man the Governor of an occupying power now wants to dictate to me on his anti gay , anti immigrant policies! This man is a Christian neanderthal that uses his religion to oppress people of color and those of the LGBT persuasion. He’ll probably ask for the ROTC Fascists to present the colors at our graduation!
Maria Dick DENVER, CO
These students need to LEARN that NOT everything can go their way and they need to learn it now—besides–this isn’t the students doing this–it’s the Obozo Adm.!!
Adam Lundin DENTON, TX
I love UNT, it is a great school! Gov. Abbott is everything my School is and was not about! Just because you are elected by old, scared white people, religious nuts and people unaware of your intentions to make Texas a state less like the one our founding fathers created!
Jesse Thunder DEL CITY, OK
If Neal Smatesk wants to live, then he must replace the keynote speaker or suffer the Karma consequences.
Richard Ostergaard RACINE, WI
What’s important for me is Freedom of speech is for everyone, not just some idiotic college student who hasn’t even taken the time to read our Constitution or even abide by it. We are a nation of laws. We are a Free nation. It’s called illegal immigration because it is ILLEGAL… Freedom of speech is not a one way street. You don’t like it? Get out
Christina Herren HOUSTON, TX
Greg Abbott does not represent the intelligent thoughtful people of Texas. The only appropriate place for him to be key note speaker is at a KKK rally.
Clyde Wilson HOUSTON, TX
Abbott is a racist, bigot, homophobe, xenophobe and misogynist. He has no business spreading his hate at a university.
Terri Frederick HOUSTON, TX
I’m signing because I will be unable to attend my niece’s graduation because of the extreme politics of this man. I do not want to pay homage to someone who does not have my niece’s best interest at heart! He does not believe in equal pay, equal rights or women’s rights. How is this in my niece’s best interest? She deserves support not impediments!
Whiney Butt SANGER, TX
I don’t want my Governor speaking to us because he’s a meany head who hates gays. I disagree with 100% of everything he has ever said and done.
Jay Anderson DENTON, TGreg Abbot is a hypocrite because he whines about state control in reference to the federal government, but wants Austin to be able to dictate to the cities how to run their business vis a vis fracking.
Here is a well-balanced editorial from the Daily:
This Editorial Board is neither excited nor disgruntled with Gov. Greg Abbott delivering the keynote address at the mass commencement this spring. We understand the implications of the governor coming to UNT, but the views of students must be considered first and foremost.
Students and faculty expressed deep botheration when we confirmed the news last week. President Neal Smatresk and the administration should not overlook those concerns.
Firstly, this GOP-controlled Texas Legislature is on the offensive against Denton’s ban on hydraulic fracturing, an effort many UNT students participated in alongside faculty. Currently, the ban is fighting an uphill battle against the state and industry, and Abbott is not relenting in favor of Denton.
Understand the political climate in which Denton sits. The needs of Denton and UNT do not align with those throughout Texas. Denton is a small liberal dot within Denton County, a red county fitting the overall conservatism of Texas.
Furthermore, Abbott does not align with UNT’s majority stance on marriage equality. The governor is not accommodating of marriage equality, and is an active opponent to the cause. There is a very active marriage equality movement at UNT – that’s no secret.
Those two issues alone are enough to catalyze efforts against Abbott’s commencement address, but one other is affecting a large segment of UNT students: immigration reform. As of fall 2014, Hispanics make up 19.52 percent, or 7,061 total, of the student population.
There have been numerous efforts at the statehouse to close and secure the Texas-Mexico border, including some legislation that would eliminate benefits for DREAMers or other immigrants. Currently, Senate Bill 1819, from Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), would repeal a provision that allows some undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates.
Let us not forget Abbott’s Democratic opponent in last year’s election, Wendy Davis, stopped at UNT during her campaign, indicative of UNT students’ liberal lean.
Students deserve to have a more active role in deciding who will be the speaker. After all, it is the students’ graduation. In the future, administrators should be more proactive in gauging student interest in the speaker, both politically and intellectually.
That said, some degree of respect is owed to the Office of the Governor. Politics aside, Abbott is due some level of respect, and his words at the lectern should be openly heard — not necessarily accepted, but heard.
On the different side of the same coin, realize that commencement addresses are opportunities for political statements; Abbott will seize this moment and spread his message in a variety of rhetorical ways.
Like it or not, Abbott has a story of hardship to tell. He was paralyzed and relies largely on a wheelchair. His medical journey affected his life. His tale is one to be heard. Try to put politics aside when he speaks.
Understand this is a huge moment for UNT from a marketing perspective. The university was quick to point out that the governor’s visit to UNT would be a great way to kick off the 125th anniversary celebration. A visit from the governor is a mark of prestige, one that should be cherished. A healthy relationship with the governor is imperative for a future of academic achievement in this state.
Most importantly, if students feel disrespected with the speaker selection, by all means, they have the duty to express that by civil protest or by Letter to the Editor. Do not allow Abbott and UNT officials to dictate the flow of information. Keep an open mind, but stand firm in your beliefs. Never allow our elected and appointed officials to override what you stand for.
If Abbott is your guy, embrace this. If you don’t want Abbott, let it be known.
How great. I had never encountered botheration before. What a wonderful word.
What caused me some botheration with the scene Saturday night were all those empty seats.
Did students and their families really skip their college commencement because they didn’t want to be reminded that they live and go to school in the state of Texas, a state that elected Greg Abbott governor in a landslide.
If not showing up were an effective political strategy, then maybe Wendy Davis would be governor.
I recalled something I wrote at First Reading after attending the March meeting at which the Texas State Republican Executive Committee elected its new party chairman to succeed Steve Munisteri.
When I arrived, a young man named Matt Pinnell, a former Oklahoma Republican Party chairman, who is national state party director at the Republican National Committee, was praising Munisteri for being a model who other state party chairmen across the nation emulate.
He also offered a variation on the classic Woody Allen dictum that, “80 percent of success is showing up.”
“The world is controlled by those who show up,” Pinnell said.
I also had not realized until this weekend that Denton is apparently even more Austin than Austin.
But Denton’s small liberal dotdom seems even more insular.
Austin is a little bit more comfortable in its own skin, and the reality that it not only has a very excellent music scene but is also the seat of government in a very red state.
Signing an online petition and then not showing up seems more an act of petulance and denial than meaningful protest. It is especially odd because Denton exists side-by-side with a most vivid example of a political movement, in the tea party, that has demonstrated the power of individuals who show up and make noise to wield enormous power out of proportion to their numbers.
In the meantime, since posting First Reading this morning, the governor’s office announced that he will be signing House Bill 40, the ban on fracking bans, in a public ceremony today at 3 p.m. Wow, back at you empty seats. At least he didn’t sign it at the Denton commencement.
Here is the prepared text of Abbott’s speech in its entirety (he improvised a bit in his delivery):
Thank you, President Smatresk. Texas is fortunate to have you at the helm of UNT as the university begins its next 125 years.
I’m honored to celebrate this commencement with the North Texas Mean Green.
I know the caliber of students who attend UNT. My nephew, Ryan Abbott, graduated in 2010 with a degree in Emergency Administration & Planning. He works with the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management. He made UNT proud earlier this week as he put his degree to good use responding to the tragic Amtrak crash in Philadelphia.
I also got to know a UNT student who will be graduating soon; his name is Nick Bradley. Right out of high school and before coming to UNT, Nick enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He served in Afghanistan and Iraq until 2008 when a bomb blew up the vehicle Nick was riding in.
Through 16 surgeries, months of rehabilitation, and raw determination Nick pieced his life back together and will now be a Senior at UNT. I was with Nick at the opening game for the Texas Rangers. With 52 screws in his arm, Nick threw out the first pitch.
It’s because of Nick and all those who fight on battlefields around the globe that we have the freedom to fight on the battleground of ideas on campuses like UNT. We never say thank you enough to those who serve our country. If there is anyone with us tonight who has ever worn the uniform of the U.S. Military, will you please stand or wave.
To the Class of 2015, congratulations on reaching this remarkable milestone in your lives. Your hard work and dedication brought you to this moment.
Tonight you’re surrounded by family and friends, moms, dads, grandparents and other loved ones. They raised you. They motivated you. They supported you from their hearts and their pockets. They deserve a big round of applause.
One thing we know for sure is that your family is extremely proud of you. You can’t imagine the sense of joy they’re feeling. Tonight would be a great time to ask for money.
In addition to the pride that you have tonight, there may also be a feeling of los, a sense of sadness that you’re leaving UNT – forever! Well let me assure you – you never really leave, because the UNT Fundraising Committee will be on your back for the rest of your life.
I will keep my remarks brief. I can’t remember who the speaker was when I graduated from law school. I seem to recall we got some cliché advice about how the future would be full of challenges. I didn’t know at the time how prophetic the speaker would be. Little did I know that the picture of me walking across the stage to get my diploma would be the last picture of me walking.
After graduating, I moved to Houston to go to work. A few weeks later I was out jogging when a tree fell and I was instantly paralyzed. The months after my graduation proved my graduation speaker right – they were challenging. During months of hospitalization I realized the future I had taken for granted was changed in an instant.
But as I worked my way through that challenge, eventually becoming a lawyer, judge, Attorney General and Governor, I found that our lives don’t have to be defined by our circumstances. Instead we can determine our lives by our character. I learned that deep within each of us lies the character that allows us to conquer our circumstances.
I’ve never talked to any graduate who hadn’t faced challenges on the path to getting their diploma. Each of you has been challenged in different ways. All of you have demonstrated the character to meet those challenges. Your presence here today, that green cap and gown you’re wearing, and the diploma you are receiving show you mastered those challenges.
Tonight you’ll leave this wonderful school and go into the world to pursue your dreams. Your lives will be filled with exciting twists and turns. You will have many more achievements, and – inevitably – you will face many more challenges. Those challenges don’t determine your destiny – you do. Your lives won’t be defined by how you are challenged, instead by how you respond to life’s challenges.
Wherever your path may lead, whatever you may do after leaving here, in the end it won’t matter if you are rich or poor. It won’t matter where you live or what you do for a living. It won’t even matter whether you can walk. What will matter is the unique fingerprint you leave on this world. Ultimately, your life is measured by the fingerprints you leave behind. As you leave UNT we look forward to watching the paths you take and the unique imprint you leave on this world.
Congratulations, Class of 2015. May God bless you all with bright futures, and may God bless the University of North Texas and this great state.
Pretty good speech.
Could Michael J. Fox have done better? Perhaps.
But, what might have been better than simply complaining that they got stuck with Greg Abbott instead of Michael J. Fox would have been a UNT teach-in in which students watched and discussed episodes of Family Ties, the show that made Michael J. Fox, a show that was created and written by liberals intent on mocking conservative values but instead, thanks to Fox’s endearing charisma playing Alex Keaton, came to enshrine those values, making Family Ties Ronald Reagan’s favorite TV show.
The scene below from Alex Teaches Preschool, is great, especially in the context of Abbott’s commitment to “high quality” pre-kindergarten.
Keaton: “A tax is a terrible, hairy, liberal monster. With big teeth. The only thing that can stop the terrible tax monster is a Republican. Who wants to be a Republican?”
From the Museum of Broadcast Communications:
Few shows better demonstrate the resonance between collectively-held fictional imagination and what cultural critic Raymond Williams called “the structure of feeling” of a historical moment than Family Ties. Airing on NBC from 1982 to 1989, this highly successful domestic comedy explored one of the intriguing cultural inversions characterizing the Reagan era: a conservative younger generation aspiring to wealth, business success, and traditional values, serves as inheritor to the politically liberal, presumably activist, culturally experimental generation of adults who had experienced the 1960s. The result was a decade, paradoxical by America’s usual post-World War II standards, in which youthful ambition and social renovation became equated with pronounced political conservatism. “When else could a boy with a briefcase become a national hero?” queried Family Ties’ creator, Gary David Goldberg, during the show’s final year.
The boy with the briefcase was Alex P. Keaton, a competitive and uncompromising, baby-faced conservative whose absurdly hard-nosed platitudes seemed the antithesis of his comfortable, middle class, white Midwestern upbringing. Yet Alex could also be endearingly (and youthfully) bumbling when tenderness or intimacy demanded departure from the social conventions so important to him. He could equally be riddled with self-doubt about his mettle for meeting the high standards he set for himself. During the course of the show, Alex aged from an unredoubtable high schooler running for student council president, to a college student reconciled to his rejection by Princeton.
Alex’s highly programmatic views of life led to continuous conflict with parents Steven and Elyse. Former war protestors and Peace Corps volunteers these adults now found fulfillment raising their children and working, respectively, as a public television station manager and as an independent architect. If young Alex could be comically cynical, his parents could be relentlessly cheerful do-gooders whose causes occasionally seemed chimerical. Yet (especially with Elyse) their liberalism could also emerge more authoritatively, particularly when it assumed the voice, not of ideological instruction, but of parental conscience and loving tolerance. And so Family Ties explored not just the cultural ironies of politically conservative youth, but the equally powerful paradox of liberal conscience. Here that conscience was kept alive within the loving nuclear family so frequently decried as an instrument of patriarchal domination, and so constantly appropriated by conservatives as a manifestation of their own values.
Significantly, the show’s timely focus on Alex and his contrasts with his parents was discovered rather than designed. Family Ties’ creator was Gary David Goldberg, an ex-hippie whose three earlier network shows had each been canceled within weeks, leading him to promise that Family Ties would be his last attempt. He undertook the show as a basically autobiographical comedy which would explore the parents’ adjustments to 1980s society and middle-aged family life. The original casting focused on Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter-Birney as the crucial Keatons. Once the show aired, however, network surveys quickly revealed that audiences were more attracted by the accomplished physical comedy, skillful characterization, and approachable looks of Michael J. Fox, the actor playing Alex. Audience reaction and Fox’s considerable, unexpected authority in front of the camera prompted Goldberg and his collaborators to shift emphasis to the young man, a change so fundamental that Goldberg told Gross and Baxter-Birney that he would understand if they decided to quit. The crucial inter-generational dynamic of the show, then, emerged in a dialogue between viewers, who identified Alex as a compelling character, and writers, who were willing to reorient the show’s themes of cultural succession around the youth. Goldberg’s largely liberal writers usually depicted Alex’s ideology ironically, through self-indicting punch lines. Many audiences, however, were laughing sympathetically, and Alex Keaton emerged as a model of the clean-cut, determined, yet human entrepreneur. Family Ties finished the 1983 and 1984 seasons as the second-highest rated show on television, and finished in the top 20 six of its seven years. President Ronald Reagan declared Family Ties his favorite program, and offered to make an appearance on the show (an offer pointedly ignored by the producers). Fox was able to launch a considerable career in feature films based on his popularity from the show.
It is also possible that, compounding the sense of grievance at UNT was McConaughey envy. Sitting on a stool, Matthew McConaughey delivered the University of Houston commencement address this weekend, offering graduates “13 lessons learned.”
Here are lessons 5 and 9.
5. Process of elimination is the first step to our identity
( a.k.a where you are NOT is as important as where you are)
In 1992, I got my first job as an actor. Three lines, three days work, in a film called Dazed and Confused. Alright.
Alright, Alright, Alright.
The director, Richard Linklater, kept inviting me back to set each night, putting me in more scenes which led to more lines all of which I happily said YES to. I was having a blast. People said I was good at it, they were writing me a check for $325 a day. I mean hell yeah, give me more scenes, I love this!! And by the end of the shoot those 3 lines had turned into over 3 weeks work and “it was Wooderson’s ’70 Chevelle we went to get Aerosmith tickets in.” Bad ass.
Well, a few years ago I was watching the film again and I noticed two scenes that I really shouldn’t have been in. In one of the scenes, I exited screen left to head somewhere, then re-entered the screen to “double check” if any of the other characters wanted to go with me. Now, in rewatching the film, (and you’ll agree if you know Wooderson), he was not a guy who would ever say, “later,” and then COME BACK to “see if you were sure you didn’t wanna come with him..” No, when Wooderson leaves, Wooderson’s gone, he doesn’t stutter step, flinch, rewind, ask twice, or solicit, right? He just “likes those high school girls cus he gets older and they stay the same age.”
My point is, I should NOT have been in THAT scene, I should have exited screen left and never come back.
But back then, making my first film, getting invited back to set, cashing that check and having a ball, I WANTED more screen time, I WANTED to be in the scene longer and more, and come back into the scene right?
I shouldn’t have been there. Wooderson shouldn’t have been there.
It’s just as important where we are not as it is where we are.
The first step that leads to our identity in life is usually NOT “I know who I am,” but rather “I know who I AM NOT.” Process of elimination.
Defining ourselves by what we are NOT is the first step that leads us to really KNOWING WHO WE ARE.
You know that group of friends you hang out with that really don’t bring out your best? They gossip too much, or they’re kind of shady, and they really aren’t gonna be there for you in a pinch? Or how about that bar we keep going to that we always seem to have the worst hangover from? Or that computer screen that keeps giving us an excuse not to get out of the house and engage with the world and get some HUMAN interaction? Or how about that food we keep eating? Tastes so good going down but makes us feel like crap the next week when we feel lethargic and keep putting on weight?
Those people, those places, those things — STOP giving them your TIME and ENERGY. Don’t GO there, put them DOWN — and when you DO quit giving them your time, you inadvertently find yourself spending MORE time and in more PLACES that are more healthy for YOU, that bring YOU more joy — WHY?
Because you just eliminated the who’s, the where’s, the what’s and the when’s that were keeping you from your identity. Trust me, too many options makes a tyrants of us all. So get rid of the excess, the wasted time, decrease your options… and you will have accidentally, almost innocently, put in front of you, what is important to you by process of elimination.
Knowing who we ARE is hard. Give yourself a break. Eliminate who you are NOT first, and you’ll find yourself where you need to be.
9. From can to want
1995. I got my first big paycheck as an actor. I think it was 150 grand. The film was Boys on the Side and we’re shooting in Tucson, AZ and I have this sweet little adobe guest house on the edge of the Saguaro National Park. The house came with a maid. My first maid. It was awesome. So, I’ve got a friend over one Friday night and we’re having a good time and I’m telling her about how happy I am with my set up . The house. The maid. Especially, the maid. I’m telling her, “she cleans the place after I go to work, washes my clothes, the dishes, puts fresh water by my bed, leaves me cooked meals sometimes, and SHE EVEN PRESSES MY JEANS!” My friend, she smiles at me, happy for my genuine excitement over this “luxury service” I’m getting, and she says, “Well…that’s great…if you like your jeans pressed.”
I kind of looked at her, kind of stuttered without saying anything, you know, that dumb ass look you can get, and it hit me…
I hate that line going down my jeans! And it was then, for the first time, that I noticed…I’ve never thought about NOT liking that starched line down the front of my jeans!! Because I’d never had a maid to iron my jeans before!! And since she did, now, for the first time in my life, I just liked it because I could get it, I never thought about if I really wanted it there. Well, I did NOT want it there. That line… and that night I learned something.
Just because you CAN?… Nah… It’s not a good enough reason to do something. Even when it means having more, be discerning, choose it, because you WANT it, DO IT because you WANT to.
I’ve never had my jeans pressed since.
And, finally here is the classic of the genre – Naval Adm. William H. McRaven’s 2014 commencement address at the University of Texas – 10 Life Lessons from Basic SEAL Training. It was so well received, McRaven is now chancellor of the University of Texas System.