As President George W. Bush ’68 walked from the Agen Sbobet podium after receiving an honorary degree and speaking at Yale’s tercentennial graduation, David Stewart ’73 and Nancy Floreen complimented and criticized him at the same time.
Floreen said she found him unabashed. Stewart thought he was genuine. But neither put down the yellow protest signs they carried, which called for changes in Bush’s environmental policy.
The pair, parents of a graduating senior in Yale College, were among a crowd of thousands of students, parents, friends and well-wishers that seemed simultaneously to applaud and boo the homecoming president in his first public appearance at his alma mater. Bush, for his part, met his largely hostile crowd face on with self-deprecating remarks and a playful tone that endeared some audience members and offended others.
There was no shortage of protest at Yale’s Commencement, which was held under partly sunny skies on the University’s Old Campus. Student organizers in Yale College as well as in the graduate schools had distributed yellow protest signs bearing messages such as “Workers’ Rights are Human Rights Make Yale Proud” and “Protect Gay Rights. Make Yale Proud” that waved over the sea of spectators and chairs during the morning’s ceremony.
Standing in the hour-long lines to enter Old Campus through metal detectors, relatives of graduates said they were not at Yale to see Bush and did not think many people were.
“A lot of people are really upset about the policies he is putting forward,” said Mary Boyle, who was waiting with her two young children to see her stepson graduate. In the background a group marched, yelling loudly, “Energy plan, not energy scam.”