Remarks by Vice President Pence at the Focus on the Family 40th Anniversary Celebration
Focus on the Family
Colorado Springs, Colorado
11:50 A.M. MDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you so much. And thank you, Jim. Thank you, Jim, for the kind introduction and for the warm welcome of our family to Focus on the Family. Jim, you’re a strong voice for timeless values and families across America, and this country, our President, and our little family are grateful for you and the leadership you’ve provided. (Applause.) Thank you, Jim.
You know it really is an honor to be here today in this beautiful chapel, with so many men and women of faith and such stalwart advocates for family, now for four decades across America.
I’m grateful that were here to enjoy the music -- (laughter) -- of one of the most inspiring Christian artists in the world --Steven Curtis Chapman. (Applause.) Steve and I met not long ago at the White House. He was there for the National Day of Prayer. And I was really excited, man. (Laughter.) And he came up to me and he said he’d read somewhere that I was a big fan of his. (Laughter.) And, Steven and Marybeth, I just want to say that your ministry of music has been a blessing in my life and I thank you on behalf of all the people whose hearts you’ve touched and whose faith you’ve encouraged. (Applause.)
And it’s a privilege to be here on this historic day -- the 40th anniversary of a cornerstone of American life for so many Americans, an organization that has been a champion without equal for American families, a bastion of grace that has inspired millions with your model of Christian love. It is great to be here on the 40th anniversary of Focus on the Family. (Applause.)
We’re grateful to be with all of you to celebrate your history and this ministry. And let me say, I bring greetings and congratulations, as well, on this historic milestone, from a good friend, whose a leader, whose a believer, whose a tireless defender of the values that will make America great -- the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
I’m really here today on the President’s behalf to congratulate Focus on the Family 40 years of vision, 40 years of compassion. And most of all I’m here today to congratulate Focus on the Family for 40 years of consequence for faith and families all across these United States.
And speaking of family, before I go one step further -- you already heard from her, and isn’t she something? (Applause.) My wife of 32 years, the Second Lady of the United States of America, Karen Pence. (Applause.)
Karen and I are deeply grateful that Focus on the Family is going to be honoring this day and our modest presence here by donating an ultrasound in our name to the Life Center in Wabash, Indiana, through the Option Ultrasound Program. You know, Karen and I have spent years supporting the compassionate work of crisis pregnancy centers across Indiana. And, Jim and the whole team here, this donation is deeply meaningful to us and I know it will save innocent lives. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
You know, the Bible tells us if you owe debts, pay debts; if honor, then honor; if respect, then respect. And I rise today to pay a debt of gratitude on behalf of millions of Americans who have benefited personally and spiritually from the work of this ministry. And as I commend all of you, allow me to acknowledge the founder of this ministry -- a man who became author of an enormous body of work that has inspired millions, and he’s been a friend and a mentor to me -- Dr. James Dobson. (Applause.)
It’s remarkable to think that 40 years ago, Dr. Dobson launched a weekly radio broadcast that aired on a few dozen stations scattered across the country, bringing words of wisdom and encouragement to all who tuned in. Now, you think of his legacy. You know, I spent a little bit of time in talk radio myself back in the day. (Laughter.) I started with a small smattering of radio stations across Indiana -- and it stayed that way. (Laughter.) It’s an incredible legacy --(laughter)
-- and that legacy continues. His, not mine. (Laughter.) It’s amazing to think that Focus on the Family broadcast now reaches into the homes and hearts of 38 million people every day. And the programs and publications run by Focus on the Family extend your reach even further -- around the world itself. Give yourself a round of applause for the impact on everyday life. (Applause.)
In a very real sense, Focus on the Family has let your light shine before men and women across the world and across this country, touching countless lives and shaping generations. In a very real sense, you’re the hands and feet and the voice, in so many ways, of the truths found in the Scriptures -- reaching in with love and compassion, embracing the dignity of people of every background and every experience around the world. You’ve strengthened marriages -- and I know in my heart you’ve -- this ministry has saved marriages. You’ve helped parents train up their children in the way they should go. You’ve brought the Good News to those who never heard it. You’ve strengthened the faith and foundation of families.
And, also, you’ve fearlessly engaged our culture and advocated in the public square for the timeless values that our society needs to hear, now more than ever. I have to tell you, it’s especially meaningful for us to be here at Focus on the Family on this occasion because this ministry, and all of you, have been a blessing to millions, including our little family.
You know, during my years in Congress, when our three children were young, and now they’re all in their 20s -- one is married, one is heading to law school next year, and one is working in the film industry. But when they were real little, every time we took the 600-mile drive from Washington, D.C. back to Indiana, I can promise you we spent an awful lot of time with Connie, Eugene, and Whit at Whit’s End. (Applause.) We did. The Adventures in Odyssey were our adventures. (Laughter.) And I remember so often the kids saying, put in another tape. (Laughter.)
And one of the most cherished memories of our children’s youth is the Family Nights booklet that we got from Focus on the Family. Literally got that book that we heard about it on the radio or something and called in for it. It inspired us to spend every Friday night with our little ones, usually on the living room floor, a little bit of pizza in the waiting, and we would huddle around a fun story, we’d learn a Biblical message. And that Focus on Family family night booklet is on the shelf with lots of notes from those moments with the little ones.
So as we stand here today thanking you for what you’ve done for families across the country -- when I look at my son, who’s married and is a First Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, when I look at our wonderful daughter, who’s walking in faith and working with Christian filmmakers, and when I think of our youngest daughter, who’s heading off to law school next year, I just say thank you. Thank you, Focus on the Family, for helping us pour a foundation in our children. (Applause.)
The truth is that Focus on the Family has been a force in American families, a force for good for the past 40 years. Millions of families like mine are indebted to your work. And let me assure you that there’s one other family that’s truly grateful for the work of this great ministry. And I promise you, Focus on the Family, you have an unwavering ally in President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
He was excited that I was coming here today, and asked me to give all of you his thanks and his regards. And the President has been standing for the things that the people in this room, this ministry has stood for now for four decades. President Trump has stood without apology for the God-given right of every American to live out your convictions in the public square. This President also has stood with those who are persecuted for their faith -- no matter the country they call home or the creed they profess. And President Trump has stood without apology for the most vulnerable in our society -- the aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn. (Applause.)
This President believes that no American, no American should have to violate their conscience to fully participate in American life, and he has taken action to protect the expressions of faith by men and women across this nation. (Applause.)
Just last month -- and Steven was there -- I had the great privilege to stand beside the President as he signed an executive order to support religious liberty in our time. Speaking from the Rose Garden, President Trump declared that, in his words now, the “federal government will never, ever penalize any person for their protected religious beliefs,” and he directed our Department of Justice to develop new protections for Americans of faith. (Applause.)
And our President is bringing the First Amendment back to pulpits and places of worship around America, rolling back the Johnson Amendment, because the freedom of speech shouldn’t stop at the front door of our churches and our synagogues. (Applause.)
And on the world stage President Trump has been standing for our values and our vital national interest. Under President Donald Trump, once again, America is standing with our allies and standing up to our enemies. And speaking of our allies, under President Donald Trump -- if the world knows nothing else the world will know this -- America stands with Israel. (Applause.)
It has not just been about liberty at home. This President has stood for religious liberty across the globe. Under President Donald Trump, America has taken measures to condemn persecution of any faith in any place at any time. And protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of the Trump administration. (Applause.)
The heartbreaking truth is that believers of so many backgrounds are under assault across the wider world. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East in the very land where our faith was first given life. Nearly 2,000 years ago the disciples of Jesus Christ fanned out from Israel in every direction, spreading the Good News that we proclaim to this day.
All across that ancient land, from the plains of Nineveh where Abraham sojourned, and on the banks of the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Nile, the fathers of our faith planted seeds of belief blossomed and have borne fruit ever since. But today, these Christian communities face unspeakable atrocities at the hands of radical radical Islamic terrorism.
The terrorists seek to stamp out all religions that are not their own, or not even a version of their own, and believers of many backgrounds have suffered grievously -- especially at the hands of the barbarians known as ISIS. That brutal regime shows a savagery unseen in the Middle East since the Middle Ages.
At the hands of ISIS, we’ve witnessed Muslims murdered indiscriminately across the Middle East, and ancient symbols of their culture and faith destroyed. This week alone, ISIS destroyed the 800-year-old Great Mosque at al-Nuri in Mosul.
But the practitioners of terror harbor, arguably, a special hatred for the followers of Christ, and I believe ISIS is guilty of nothing short of genocide against people of the Christian faith. In Egypt, we have just recently seen Coptic Christians martyred on their way to a monastery, and bombs explode in churches amidst Palm Sunday celebrations -- a day of hope transformed into a day of grief.
In Iraq, we see ancient churches demolished, priests and monks beheaded, and the two-millennia-old Christian tradition in Mosul virtually extinguished. And in Syria, we see Christian communities burned to the ground, women and children sold into human slavery.
Christianity now faces an exodus in the lands of its birth, unrivaled since the days of Moses. It’s heartbreaking to think that the Christian population in Syria has plummeted from one-and-a-quarter million to only 500,000 in just the past six years. And in Iraq, the followers of Christ have fallen by 80 percent in the past decade-and-a-half.
Be assured of this: This administration is fully committed to bringing relief and comfort to believers in that ancient land. And President Trump has made it clear that America will stand with people of faith in that ancient land in their hour of need. And we will restore -- we will restore their peace and security. (Applause.)
This President will continue to stand without apology for persecuted people of faith across the globe. As we speak, we're taking the fight to the terrorists on our terms, on their soil. And we'll not rest, we'll not relent until we drive the cancer of radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the Earth. (Applause.)
You know, it's the greatest privilege of my life to serve as Vice President to a President who is so committed to protecting faith and freedom at home and abroad. But I have to tell you, I’m most proud to stand with a President who stands without apology for the sanctity of human life. (Applause.)
Since day one of this administration, President Donald Trump has been keeping his promise to defend the unborn. And under this President’s leadership and with your support, life is winning in America again.
Life is winning through the steady advance of science that illuminates when life really begins. Life is winning through the generosity of millions of adoptive families, who open their hearts and their homes to children in need. And life is winning through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations, like Focus on the Family, that provide and support for women in cities and towns all across the country.
Life is winning in America, in a word, because of all of you who have supported a President, and a Congress, and the policies that uphold the sanctity of life.
You know, this President has been keeping his word since the first day of this administration to stand for the right to life. From the outset of this administration, the President said that he would appoint justices to our Supreme Court and federal judges who would uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in the Constitution. And he's done that, starting with our newest justice to the Supreme Court of the United States -- Justice Neil Gorsuch. (Applause.)
In January, the President actually made some history by personally asking me to be the first official at our level to ever have the privilege to speak at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. (Applause.) And the President asked me to go. I said that at the beginning of my speech, Jim, but it really did happen. It was a couple days before that. We were looking at the course of the week, and Prime Minister May was coming to the White House that day. It was going to a busy day. A very important foreign policy discussions. And they were trying to figure out whether the President could make the customary phone call to the March for Life, to break away from those important bilateral discussions.
And I was standing by his desk in the Oval Office, and they were having a hard time figuring out how he could get away. And I said -- you know, rather sheepishly, well, you know, they invited me to speak, too. (Laughter.) And the President looked up at me, and he said, to speak at the March? And I said, yeah. I mean, we -- I said, I've gone before and we've done that before. And he just pointed at me and he said, you should go. (Laughter.) And I went because President Donald Trump wanted me to go and to make a strong stand for the right to life. (Applause.)
You know, in fact, beyond that, one of his very first acts in Congress, this President reinstated the Mexico City policy to keep taxpayer funding out of organizations that perform or promote abortions around the world. (Applause.) And he even expanded that policy to cover $9 billion in foreign aid.
And this President has eliminated U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund because American taxpayers should never have to support abortion in China or anywhere else. (Applause.) And the President signed into law legislation that empowered states to withhold funding from abortion providers. And it was my great privilege, at the President’s direction, to cast the tie-breaking vote to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood. (Applause.)
And later this summer, when we repeal and replace Obamacare, we're going to defund Planned Parenthood once and for all. (Applause.)
You know, just yesterday, following important work in the House of Representatives, the United States Senate released its bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. The President and I are grateful to Leader Mitch McConnell and all the Senate Republicans for their deliberative efforts over the past month. And while discussions will continue, let me be clear, the President and I are very supportive of the Senate bill. As the President reminded the nation yesterday, “Obamacare is dead.” (Applause.) Obamacare is collapsing all and Obamacare must go.
The President and I are counting on your support. We need your energy. We need your enthusiasm, your conviction. We need you to stand up and to speak out, and to work every single day, from this point forward, to get this bill across the finish line.
This legislation repeals the taxes and mandates of Obamacare. It gives states all new freedom and flexibility to reform Medicaid to meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens. And you can be certain, the President and I will be fighting to protect the provisions in this bill that honor the sanctity of life. (Applause.)
But this is the moment -- this is the moment, men and women; now is the time. And I can promise you, President Trump and I will not rest and we will not relent until we repeal and replace Obamacare and give the American people the kind of world-class healthcare they deserve, built on freedom, personal responsibility, free market competition, and state-based reform. That's the American way to meet our healthcare needs in the 21st century. (Applause.)
Men and women of Focus on the Family, I’m here today to say congratulations, but also to urge you to press on. You ought to consider 40 years just a good start. (Laughter.) And I know you do. Yours is and always will be a mission and a ministry of great significance. And I can testify to that and millions of Americans can. For 40 years, you've been a light -- a ray of hope and joy and love into homes across America and around the world.
So keep going. Keep doing it. You are testament to the power of unchanging truth to change lives. And in this time of widening challenges and too much division in America, the gentle voice of Focus on the Family -- your values, your support for families -- are more important than ever before. And I believe they spring from the very heart of God.
Flying out here today, I was reading my morning devotions. And I found myself in the book of Second Kings. I'm not there often, I was just -- (laughter.) I like to read an Old Testament verse and a New Testament verse. And it was when the prophet Elisha asked after a woman who had come to seek some help. Her son had died, and she went running to find the man of God. And as he saw her at a distance, not knowing what had happened in her life, the Bible records that he said words that made me think of all of you. He said, are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?
That man of God was not just concerned about her. He was concerned about her family. And so, too, all of you. As you've spoken a word of truth and hope and good news into the lives of individuals, you've done it with a focus on the family. And I thank you for that.
And as I close, and urge you to keep going in this ministry, keep being a blessing to generations to come and other young families on 600-mile drives, let me ask you also to do what the men and women of Focus on the Family have always done, I know, over the past four decades. And that is, as you bow the head and bend the knee in these challenging times, I urge you to pray for America.
Now, I’m not talking in this moment about praying for a cause or a candidate or an agenda. I rather like what Abraham Lincoln said in his time. He was asked once if he thought that God was on the side of the Union Army. Our 16th President simply replied, “My concern is not whether God is on our side -- my concern is whether we're on God’s side.”
So let's just pray for America. Let's pray for this country that we are so blessed to call home. Because America matters far beyond our shores.
And when you pray, pray with confidence. Because I truly do believe those ancient words that Americans have repaired to time and again in much more challenging times than we face today are every bit as true now as they were millennia ago: That if His people who are called by His name will humble themselves and pray, He'll do like He's always done. He’ll hear from heaven, and He’ll heal this land -- this one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
So, congratulations, Focus on the Family, on 40 years of ministry. May God bless you. May God bless your families. And may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
12:20 P.M. MDT