Mike Pence gave the commencement address earlier today at Taylor University. Taylor’s invitation to Pence has been controversial. I wrote about it in a piece at Religion News Service.
As expected, dozens of students and faculty walked out of the room before Pence took the lectern. The Washington Post has the best reporting I have seen so far. Read Isaac Stanley-Becker’s piece here.
The Indianapolis Star has published the full transcript of Pence’s remarks. The speech is very similar to the one he gave last week at Liberty University, but it has a slightly less culture war feel. Pence did not reference Trump as much as he did at Liberty and he dropped some of the persecution language that I wrote about in this Washington Post piece. Nevertheless, I stand by my original Religion News Service piece. (See link above).
Here is the transcript:
Thank you so much. To President Haines, the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, family, distinguished guests: It is an honor for us to be here at the Kesler Center for the commencement ceremony of Taylor University Class of 2019. Congratulations. You made it!
And I want to thank you, President Haines. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for those warm words. I only wish that my parents could have heard them. My father would have enjoyed it, and my mother would’ve believed it. But would you all join me in thanking President Haines for the extraordinary leadership he’s provided here to Taylor University? We are all so grateful.
And it’s great to be here with so many friends of ours. Met a lot of them backstage. It’s always good to be back in Indiana. And speaking of friends of mine, allow me to bring greetings from a friend I just spoke to on the phone on my way over to Taylor, shortly after we landed. He asked me to pass along his regards. So allow me to extend congratulations to the graduating class of 2019 from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.
It is a joy to be back home again here in the Hoosier State with all of you with somebody who is the most special person in my life. You know, I always wait to introduce the highest-ranking official last. She’s a Marine Corps mom. She’s a champion for military families. She even teaches art at a Christian school. Would you join me in giving one more welcome to the Second Lady of the United States of America, Karen Pence?
Karen and I are really honored to be back on this beautiful campus. It really is amazing to think: For more than 170 years, Taylor University has faithfully carried out its mission “to develop servant leaders marked with a passion to minister Christ’s redemptive love and truth to a world in need.” We heard those themes again from the podium already today.
And the class of 2019 is emblematic of that mission, and you are a remarkable class. You come from 29 different states, 21 different nations, and I learned on the way here that more than 300 of you are graduating from Taylor University today with honors. Congratulations to you all. Well done.
And among you are scholars, accomplished musicians and artists, and exceptional athletes. In fact — in fact, I heard that all 18 of Taylor’s Trojan teams have been recognized as “Scholar-Athletes” by the NAIA. Give yourselves another round of applause. That’s great.
And behind all of these incredible achievements, of course, are some really special people. Like a young woman who began her career at Taylor as an education major — but over the course of her time here, she was pulled in a different direction. She’s gone on several mission trips abroad to minister to children in need. She’s dedicated her time and talent, alongside her parents, to care for refugees. And today she volunteers at least three days a week at an afterschool program here in Upland. And today, she will become Taylor University’s first ever major in Orphans and Vulnerable Children. Join me in congratulating Rachael Rower on a great academic career. Where are you, Rachael? We’re proud of you.
And I also was told that Rachael is engaged to be married in just under a month. So I guess I have to recognize another member of the class her fiancé, Joey Ferguson. Well done, Joey. You outkicked your coverage. God bless them both.
And, you know, I was told there’s another member of the Class of 2019 that I just have to mention, because I’m told he’s left an indelible mark on just about everybody he’s met here at Taylor. He’s a great student, of course, and apparently a really good soccer player. Good photographer. Hard worker. Clear thinker. And that, even more than his rich Irish accent, is his deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ. It’s impressed everybody he’s met.
In fact, this young man is joined today, I’m told, by his parents, who had never been to the United States of America before today, but they just flew in to see this Taylor graduate walk across this stage. So congratulations to Charbel Salako. Where are you? And to Charbel’s parents: Welcome to America! What a great day.
And I know this is a great day for all of you in the Class of 2019. And it should be fun — because winners have fun, and you’re all winners today.
And you know that you didn’t get here on your own, though. The leaders here at Taylor University poured themselves into you — this administration, this incredible staff, and, of course, the men and women of Taylor’s faculty.
You know, it’s probably pretty safe to say that these professors didn’t go easy on you. They pressed you over the last four years. They challenged you, too. They made you better. They made you smarter. They made you more ready. So would you join me in thanking all the great faculty here at Taylor University for all they have done for you?
And while I serve as your Vice President — and before that, as the president said here, I served as governor of this great state — the highest position I’ll ever hold is actually spelled “D-A-D.” You know, Karen and I are the proud parents of three college graduates and that’s worth a round of applause. Got them all through.
So honestly, we understand, on a very personal level, the sacrifices that your families have made to help you reach this moment. And we understand just how proud they are, as they sit all around us today. And it’s an emotional day for them, I promise you. They’re remembering not — not just the times that you were here at Taylor; they’re remembering all those days that led up to it. They drove you to school, got you to do your homework before you went to bed. And even while you were here, they encouraged you through late nights before final exams, and — and they wrote a few checks along the way, too.
And they prayed — I know they did — for each and every one of you, every day that you were here. So before we go any further, would all the moms and dads who are here — all the parents who are here — would you all just stand up so we can show you the appreciation that all these great graduates feel for all the support and love over the last four years?
Men and women of the Class of 2019, today you will graduate from an extraordinary university. You’ll begin your journey. New careers. New endeavors. And you know, they say timing is everything. And to this great class, I just want to tell you, straight up: You picked a great time to graduate from Taylor University. The America that awaits your energies and ambitions is experiencing a new era of optimism and opportunity. You’re beginning your careers at a time of a growing American economy and restored American stature at home and abroad.
You know, as Vice President, it’s my honor, more than I can say, to serve alongside a President who has stood so strong for our national defense. And on this Armed Forces Day, we honor all the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard who defend our freedom every day. And to all the veterans who are here with us today, thank you for your service.
And I couldn’t be more proud to be part of an administration that has stood strong on the timeless values that have made this nation great, and stood without apology for the sanctity of human life.
But for all those accomplishments, you deserve to know that your timing really is great. Because under the leadership of President Trump, we’ve been busy getting this economy moving again. We cut taxes. We rolled back regulation. We’ve unleashed American energy.
And as I stand before you today, the economy that awaits you — businesses large and small — have created 5.8 million new jobs in just over the last two years. Unemployment is at a near 50-year low. And get this: Today, there are more job openings in America than there are Americans looking for work. That’s great timing, Class of 2019.
Not that Taylor grads are going to have any trouble finding a job. You know, I actually heard that 97 percent of Taylor graduates secure work or graduate school placement within the first six months of graduation. It’s a testament to this extraordinary university.
You know, the many Taylor grads I’ve worked with over the years are some of the smartest and most dedicated men and women I’ve ever known. In fact, I’m proud that we got a Taylor grad serving on the staff of the Office of the Vice President at the White House, even as we speak.
So when you leave this remarkable place, I promise you, you’re going to find an America filled with promise. And I know the men and women of this Class of 2019 are going to thrive. Because you have the support of your families. You have a foundation of a great and unique education. And because, here at Taylor, it was all built on a foundation of faith — a foundation that cannot be shaken.
You know, it really is beautiful that, before you leave here today, you’ll be handed a diploma; you’ll also be handed a Bible and a Servant’s Towel. And I believe these elements hold the keys to the success and fulfillment in the lives that await you. And I know what I’m talking about.
You know, like many of you, I was raised in a church home. But by the time I got to high school, I lost interest in religion. I was one of those people who still went to church, but I was just going through the motions — you know, holding form of Christianity, but denying its power.
By the time I went off to college — a little school down south of here — I just went my own way. But when I went to school, I started to meet people — maybe like you have here — that I could tell where different. Some people that had something I lacked. And it wasn’t just confidence or an easy familiarity; it was something they had that I knew I didn’t have. The only way I could describe it was peace and a joy about everything in their lives.
In fact, I was so moved by their example that I started attending a Christian fellowship group on campus. And I had this friend who ran the group. He was a senior; I was a freshman. And we became good friends. And I talked to him a lot about faith issues. And he spent a lot of time with me and was very patient.
But I noticed, you know, as I got more involved in the local fellowship group, that I decided I was going to go ahead and get involved. And he was wearing this really cool little cross everywhere he went. So I started asking him where he got it — you know, because I wanted to get one, too. Frankly, I started to pester him about it. It was back then before you had these things that you’re always looking at, and we had these catalogues you order things from — you had to call on the phone. Your mom and dad will explain that to you.
And I kept bothering him about the catalogue. I said, “Hey, be sure and get me that catalogue because, you know, I want to order that cross.” I said, “I’ve decided to go ahead and do the Christian thing. So, you know, I want to — you know, I want to start wearing a cross.”
I’ll never forget — John looked at me one day and said some words that I’ll never forget. I said to him, “Don’t forget about that catalogue.” And he turned around, and he looked at me, and he said, “Mike, remember: You got to wear it in your heart before you wear it around your neck.” To be honest with you, I didn’t know what he meant. But I knew there was truth in it. I wrestled with those words.
Then a little while later, I found myself at a youth Christian music festival that the group went to down in Wilmore, Kentucky. We sat on a hillside for two days, listening to some great contemporary Christian music and messages in between. And it was on a rainy night, sitting on that hillside back in 1978, that I heard some words I’d heard my whole life in Church — but I heard them different.
I’d always heard that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” But on that Saturday night, I heard it different. Sitting on that hillside, I realized that it also meant God so loved me that He gave His only Son to save me from my sin. And overwhelmed not with guilt, but with a heart overflowing with gratitude, that night I put my faith in Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. And it’s made all the difference in my life.
So now I want to say, not so much as your Vice President or a fellow Hoosier, but as a brother in Christ: If what you’ve seen and heard and learned in this place has also taken hold in your hearts, I want to encourage you to go from here, and live it out, and share it, and put feet on your faith as you carry and minister over the course of your lives. Because America needs men and women of integrity and faith now more than ever.
You know, the truth is that we live in a time when religious belief is under assault. We’ve seen unspeakable acts of violence against religious communities. Synagogues in Pennsylvania and California. Mosques in New Zealand. Churches in Sri Lanka. And three historically black churches burned to the ground in Louisiana.
And on a much lesser scale, but more prevalent, we see a change in our culture as well. You know, throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself a Christian — but things are different now. Lately, it’s become acceptable, even fashionable, to malign traditional Christian beliefs.
So as you prepare to leave this place and build your life on the Christ-centered, world-engaging foundation poured here at Taylor University, be prepared to stand up.
You know, as Dr. Milo Rediger wrote in “Anchor Points” so long ago, he said, quote, “we’re looking for young people [here at Taylor] who are willing to stand up and be counted for God.” And as you stand up, be prepared to face opposition.
But be confident. For the Bible says, “God has given us a spirit not of timidity, but of power and love and self-control.” So go show the world every day that we can love God and love our neighbor at the same time. Our nation and our world needs it.
And know also that freedom of religion is enshrined not just in the Constitution, but in the hearts of every American. And I promise you: We will always stand up for the freedom of religion and for the right of every American to live, to learn, to worship according to the dictates of your conscience. That’s a promise.
And finally, as you prepare to depart on your lives and careers, I hope that you will take one other piece of that foundation poured here at Taylor University along. I hope that you will aspire to serve. To be, as that towel will ever remind you, a servant leader.
You know, I believe public service is a noble calling. But wherever life takes you, take a servant’s attitude. Consider others more important than yourselves. Live your lives as He did: not to be served, but to serve.
And if you need examples, you can just look around the people that are sitting with you. A lot of young men and women here have already learned: The fulfilled life is the life of service to others.
Like a public health major who grew up in Illinois who is graduating today. Like many of you Taylor students, she traveled overseas to give her time and talent to help those in need. But, as the story goes, during her J-term of her sophomore year, she was serving on a mission trip in the Middle East, and this young woman started to feel what she called “a little tug from God.”
Since then, that little tug has turned into a calling, and a calling that she’s answered. And after graduation, this incredible young woman will move to the Middle East and serve as a Women’s Health Coordinator for the non-profit One Collective. So would you all join me in showing our appreciation for the great example of 2019 graduate, Claire Heyen. Well done, Claire. We’re proud of you.
So, Class of 2019, my word to all of you is: Never stop believing, never stop serving, and always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have, with gentleness and respect. Because our nation and our world need that message of grace and love these days maybe more than ever before.
And as you do these things, in increasing measure, I promise you, you’ll be blessed. You’ll be a blessing to your family, to your coworkers, and you’ll be a blessing to this nation.
You know, America has always been a nation of faith. As our first Vice President, John Adams, said, and I quote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” So just know, as you strengthen the foundation of faith in your life; as you carry that faith from here, in service to your fellow Americans, you will be strengthening the foundation of America itself.
So thank you for the honor of addressing you. To all of our graduates, I say: Have faith. Have faith in yourselves, proven by what you’ve accomplished to get you to this very day. Have faith in the principles and the ideals that you learned here and the noble mission that has always animated Taylor University. And have faith that He who brought you this far will never leave you, nor forsake you — because He never will.
Congratulations, Class of 2019. You did it. God bless you. And God bless America.