Vice President Mike Pence has accepted an invitation to deliver Hillsdale College’s commencement address, The Collegian exclusively has learned.
“We are proud to have Pence, a man of principled public service, of strong constitutional views, and of deep faith at our campus,” College President Larry Arnn said in a statement. “We are glad to have him back for this culminating ceremony of college life.”
Hillsdale is expected to make a public announcement today about Pence’s address to the class of 2018 for its 166th commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. on May 12 in the Biermann Athletics Center. His selection marks the end of a more than eight-month search by the senior class officers and the college president’s office for a commencement speaker.
“We get a speaker who in his public life, private life, and spiritual life embodies what we strive for here at Hillsdale College,” Senior Class President Razi Lane told The Collegian. “Mike Pence captures our mission, as a father, husband, Christian, and leader of this country. I couldn’t think of a better person to address the senior class than Vice President Mike Pence.”
Although Pence’s speech at Hillsdale would mark his first visit to the college as vice president, he previously spoke on “The Presidency and the Constitution” on Sept. 20, 2010, in Phillips Auditorium, as a congressman. Less than a year later on April 16, 2011, he participated in a town hall on “Economic Liberty and the Constitution” at the Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.
For awhile, Hillsdale has hoped to bring Pence to campus. Arnn said he told Pence he wanted him to speak at the dedication ceremony of the Christ Chapel in 2019, because he “is a dignified figure and serious about his faith.” This year’s senior class officers, however, convinced him to invite the vice president to campus early.
Prior to President Donald Trump selecting Pence as his running mate in July 2016, the 48th vice president of the United States served as the 50th governor of Indiana from 2013 – 2017. He implemented the largest tax cuts in the state’s history and advocated for more funding of preschools, voucher programs, and charter schools.
Before that, Pence was in the U.S. House of Representatives beginning in 2001. By 2008, Esquire magazine named him in the top 10 best members of Congress because his “unalloyed traditional conservatism ha[d] repeatedly pitted him against his party elders.”
Although Pence has made his way in Washington, D.C., he is a Midwest native, born and raised in Columbus, Indiana. Additionally, he attended Indiana’s Hanover College, a private, liberal arts institution like Hillsdale.
After briefly serving as an admissions counselor at Hanover, Pence attended the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis and earned his juris doctor. He practiced law and then ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1988 and 1990. He later worked as president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a state think tank, and had his own syndicated radio talk show and weekly televised public affairs program.
Pence grew up as a Roman Catholic and was a Democrat early in life. During college, however, he became an evangelical Christian and found himself being swayed by the “common-sense conservatism of Ronald Reagan.”
After Pence spoke at Hillsdale in 2010, the college published his speech in the following month’s issue of Imprimis. In it, he discussed his view of statesmanship and argues for a limited government and a strong military.
“Power is an instrument of fatal consequence,” Pence said in the speech. “It is confined no more readily than quicksilver, and escapes good intentions as easily as air flows through mesh. Therefore, those who are entrusted with it must educate themselves in self-restraint. A republic is about limitation, and for good reason, because we are mortal and our actions are imperfect.”
Lane said the senior class officers spoke with many of their peers, discussing with them what they would like to see in a commencement speaker. For him, Pence is a personal hero, and he said he is proud and honored that Pence will address his senior class with the help of Arnn and his office.
“His track record is one of principles and reasonable conservatism,” Lane said. “Chiefly, I admire him for his civility and respect in every issue he engages. He is extremely respectful and cordial. There’s a careful balance, and he hits it right on.”
Tickets to the commencement ceremony will be available only for graduates and their families, Hillsdale employees, and friends of the college.
As students have waited with anticipation to learn who will be the last to address the class of 2018, Lane said he hopes students will be thankful and eager to share the stage with Pence next month.
“My prayer has been the speaker we get is worth the wait,” Lane said. “From my perspective, the selection of Vice President Pence has been absolutely worth the wait.”