2:50 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all. And thank you, Dr. Arnn, for that warm and remarkable welcome. I need to remind myself to never follow Dr. Arnn to a podium again. (Laughter.) He has become my friend. I don’t use the word “mentor” loosely, but the President of Hillsdale College has been a mentor to me.
Dr. Arnn, under your leadership, Hillsdale College has risen to national prominence as never before, educating a generation to carry freedom forward. And these students, and this nation, are in your debt. Would you join me in showing your appreciation for the 12th President of Hillsdale College — Dr. Larry Arnn. (Applause.)
And before I get started, let me make a promise — a promise to all these students — unlike Dr. Arnn, I will not be asking you to define “the good.” (Laughter.)
To the Board of Trustees, to these distinguished members of this remarkable faculty, former Governor Orr, Congressman Walberg, to all our distinguished honorees and guests — to all the proud parents, and all the family and friends gathered here, and most importantly, to the extraordinary men and women seated before me today, the Class of 2018: Thank you for giving me the honor of addressing this 166th Commencement Ceremony for this beacon of liberty and American ideals that is Hillsdale College. (Applause.)
And let me begin by bringing greetings from a good friend of mine, who’s also a great admirer of Hillsdale College. He asked me to pass along his congratulations to the Class of 2018. I bring greetings and congratulations from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
You know, Karen and I are really honored to be back at this exceptional institution and to be a part of this commencement. And we’re also humbled by the recognition that will be bestowed on us today. I mean, allow me to commend you, Dr. Arnn, and the faculty for having the especially good judgment to honor my wife with an honorary degree today. (Laughter.) I guarantee you that if you were looking at the academic averages in our family, they would reflect the academic achievement of the top 11 graduates of this class. (Laughter.)
My wife is a career educator, an author, an artist. She’s traveled across our home state and across this country supporting worthy causes benefitting vulnerable children and our military families. Would you all just join me in thanking the Second Lady of the United States of America, Karen Pence, for who she is and all she does. (Applause.)
For my part, I’ve always marveled at Hillsdale College’s long, and often lonely, stand for freedom in America. This college was founded at a time of great consequence in the life of our nation — a time when Americans were deeply divided over the meaning and purpose of our country, and whether, as the Declaration of Independence forcefully states that we are, in fact, all “created equal.”
But for the founders of Hillsdale College, the truths of the American founding were just that — true for all people, at all times.
In 1844, those men and women did what no other college had done up to that time. Hillsdale College prohibited any discrimination based on race, religion, and gender — at its very founding. (Applause.) They established this institution to provide “sound learning” necessary to preserve the principles and the promise of America — and so has Hillsdale done in every era since.
Inscribed on Central Hall, I’m told, are the words: “May earth be better and heaven be richer because of the life and labor of Hillsdale College” — and so it has been true. But I also know these words will continue to ring true for generations to come because of the men and women of the Hillsdale College Class of 2018.
This is an extraordinary group of men and women who have accomplished extraordinary things in their time here, and they’ve only just begun — (applause) — 366 strong, representing 37 states and 5 countries. You’ve persevered through all of the most challenging and transformative educations anywhere in the country.
You know, it seems, at times, that we live in an age of grim relativism. But here, this class has seen the power of unchanging truth to change lives. You’ve learned that character is destiny, that it’s essential for self-government, and that right conduct is its own reward.
And it seems we live in a time where too many disregard that wisdom of the past that Dr. Arnn spoke about so eloquently. But here, you’ve been grounded in the traditions and teachings that are our greatest inheritance in America, and the teachings and traditions that will always be the surest foundation of a boundless American future.
In a word, your education at Hillsdale has taught you not what to do, but what to be. And today, you will receive a diploma that has been minted in independence and tempered with truth. So for all you have done to reach this moment, Class of 2018, give yourselves a round of applause. We are proud of each and every one of you. (Applause.)
Today is a day of celebration, but it’s also a day of appreciation, especially — I know I speak for this class when I say it’s especially true for those who believed in you and helped bring you to this day: your friends, your professors, and of course, your wonderful families.
I mean, let’s be honest, no one comes to a commencement to hear the speaker. (Laughter.) In fact, if you took every commencement speaker this college has ever had, and laid them end to end, it’d probably be a good thing. (Laughter.)
But all of you gathered here, gathered around this incredible class, are here to revel in the accomplishments represented by those in the cap and gown. But they know that today is as much your accomplishment as theirs.
So before we go one step further, Class of 2018, would you mind just standing up for a second, turn around, catch the eye of your loved ones — your brothers, sisters, grandparents, and especially your impoverished parents — (laughter) — and just show them how much you appreciate all they’ve done to bring you to this day. (Applause.) Thanks for that.
Today, you, the members of the Class of 2018, will graduate from this extraordinary college and enter new careers and endeavors. And so before I go further, I’d like to take a moment to talk about what good timing you have.
You’ll be glad to know the America that awaits your energies and ambitions is experiencing a new era of opportunity and optimism. (Applause.) You are beginning your careers at a time of a growing American economy and restored American stature at home and abroad. And I can personally attest, from my travels across this nation, faith in America is rising once again. (Applause.)
On the world stage, you’ve seen America embracing our role as leader of the free world — with action just this week on Iran, North Korea. And Monday, America will lead the world again when we open our new American Embassy in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. (Applause.)
Here at home, businesses large and small are growing again. More than 3.1 million new jobs in the last 15 months, unemployment is at a 17-year low. And the best news for all of you new graduates is that there’s more job openings in America today than ever before in our nation’s history. (Applause.)
And let me say it’s no accident or coincidence. Faith in America is rising again because President Trump and our entire administration have been advancing the very principles that you learned here in the halls at Hillsdale College — the principles that have always been the source of America’s greatness and strength.
In this White House, as the President has said, we “fight for the West” with all “our minds, our wills, and our souls,” as he said in Warsaw, Poland.
We’ve been expanding freedom, cutting taxes, rolling back the regulatory state, returning authority to the people and to the states. And we’ve been upholding the Constitution of the United States and defending all the God-given liberties enshrined there, including the unalienable right to life. (Applause.)
The truth is, when you leave this place, you’re going to find an America filled with promise, being built again anew on a foundation of personal responsibility and individual freedom.
But I also believe that faith in America is rising again for one more reason. For despite the fact that we live in a time when traditional values and even religious convictions are increasingly marginalized by a secular popular culture — a time when it’s become acceptable, even fashionable, to malign religious belief — in this time, I believe with all my heart that faith in America is rising, as well. (Applause.)
Now, full disclosure, people who know me well know that I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican — in that order. (Applause.)
As the Good Book says, I’m not ashamed of the Gospel. In fact, it was 40 years ago this spring that I put my faith in Christ as a freshman at another liberal arts college not very far from here.
And while, in some places, deeply held religious belief is becoming more rare, leading some to claim that America’s rich faith tradition will soon be a relic of our nation’s past — it just isn’t so. Facts are facts. Faith is rising across America; I see it every day. In communities large and small, the way Americans respond in good times and in great hardship, the faith of the American people shines forth.
I see it as I travel across this great country, as countless Americans take the time to tell us, often with great emotion, the sweetest words we ever hear: “I’m praying for you.” And I know they mean it.
And I see right now, right here, at the Hillsdale College, an institution founded by those who proclaimed themselves grateful to God for His inestimable blessings.
Even as many continue to forecast the decline of religion in American life, the truth is, as President Trump recently said, this is a nation of faith, and faith continues to exert an extraordinary hold on the hearts and minds of a growing number of Americans.
In fact, the percentage of Americans who live out their religion on a weekly basis — praying, going to church, reading and believing in the Bible — has remained remarkably consistent over the decades, even as the population of the United States has grown by leaps and bounds.
I mean, think about it, today, relative to the population, four times as many Americans go to church on a regular basis than at the time of our nation’s founding.
Religion in America isn’t receding. It’s just the opposite. Faith is gaining new life across America every day. (Applause.) And for my part, I’ve long believed that nothing is more important to the future of this nation.
Faith has always been the wellspring of hope for millions of Americans from our very founding. Faith has been the foundation of our freedom, as well. And religion was recognized by our founders as essential to the republic.
It’s a truth that’s been taught at Hillsdale that would not be a new thought for this class. This is a place where faith flourishes. I note with admiration that Hillsdale will very soon open your new Christ Chapel in just a few short months. It will be the largest college chapel built in America in almost 100 years. (Applause.)
You know, Hillsdale has always recognized the wisdom beautifully expressed by our nation’s first Vice President, John Adams. He said, and I quote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people, and it is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
As all of you can attest, here at Hillsdale, students and professors of all different faith traditions sharpen one another, just as “iron sharpens iron.” And as you prepare to leave this special place, I just encourage you to take your convictions into every facet of your life. Add your voices and your values to this great American experiment.
Class of 2018: At Hillsdale College, you have received an education uniquely grounded in American ideals. But as the Good Book says, “To whom much is given, much will be required,” and so it is with each of you.
Your education in the liberal arts has empowered you to conserve the foundations of our freedom, and you are now uniquely suited — and I believe you are uniquely called — to renew the fabric of our national life with your character and with your ideals.
Make no mistake about it: This is an ongoing and monumental task. It’s not for the faint of heart or the small-minded. It will require courage and tenacity and greatness of spirit. At times, you will face opposition, even ridicule, for taking a stand for what you know to be right. But as you’ve learned here at Hillsdale, “Strength rejoices in the challenge.” (Applause.)
And remember, the most heroic acts and the greatest feats aren’t the stuff of headlines and fame. They’re actually to be found in the daily choices that you’ll make and the habits that you’ve already begun to form.
Ultimately, whether you become a part of redeeming and renewing the time, it comes down to whether you live what you have learned here at Hillsdale College.
And so I urge you with the greatest respect: Continue to grow as men and women of character. Continue to forge friendships that will help you grow as a person and pursue what’s right.
Form strong, vibrant, and loving families — the foundation of our free society, where you pass along our cherished values to the next generation.
Continue to build strong communities, those “little platoons” that shape all who dwell within them and, in the process, shape America itself.
And never forget that timeless wisdom once enshrined on that old sign on M99: Hillsdale, “It’s the people.” (Laughter and Applause.)
So thank you for the honor of addressing you today. And as I close, let me encourage you, the Hillsdale Class of 2018, have faith. Faith in yourselves, proven by what you have accomplished to get to this very day. Faith in the principles and the ideals that you learned here. Principles that bind us together as a people and give purpose to our nation. Faith that America is rising, and that you have a role to play in redeeming the time.
And lastly, I pray that you’ll also leave this place with faith. As Winston Churchill reflected before our Congress, that, in his words, “Some great purpose and design is being worked out here below, of which we have the honor to be faithful servants.”
And trust that He who brought you this far will never leave you, nor forsake you, because He never will.
If you hold fast to Him, if you live according to all that you have learned and the examples that you have seen in this special place, if you rededicate yourselves to the noble mission that has always animated the graduates of this college, I just know, at the bottom of my heart, right after we get done making this nation great again, your generation will make America greater than ever before. (Applause.)
So congratulations to the Class of 2018. You did it. This day is yours. Your future starts today.
God bless you. God bless Hillsdale College. And God bless the United States of America.
3:11 P.M. EDT