News and Commentary

Wisconsin College Disinvites Pence From Giving Commencement Address

Decision came after "careful consideration of the escalating events in Kenosha."
Mike Pence stands with his wife Karen Pence before accepting the vice presidential nomination during the Republican National Convention from Fort McHenry National Monument on August 26, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

On Thursday, possibly prompted by a letter from alumni and current students, Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, roughly an hour from Kenosha, announced that they had rescinded the offer to Vice President Pence to give the commencement address to their graduating students on August 29.

Citing “escalating events” as a reason to disinvite the Vice President of the United States, the college stated:

After further review with careful consideration of the escalating events in Kenosha, the WLC Board of Regents and the College’s Administration have jointly decided to present a different speaker instead of the Vice President of the United States, Michael R. Pence, at the Saturday, August 29, 2020, commencement.

Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley, responding to the announcement, told CNN, “Vice President Pence understands and supports Wisconsin Lutheran College’s decision to prioritize the safety and well-being of their students, and wishes the students well as they celebrate the accomplishment of graduating from college and as they embark on their next journey.”

Instead of Pence, Rev. Mark Jeske of St. Marcus Lutheran Church in Milwaukee will deliver the address.

The text of the letter from alumni and students, which states the “mere invitation of a Vice President of an incredibly divisive and controversial ticket to speak in a swing state months before an election is ignorant and deceptive,” is below:

We renounce the decision to invite Vice President Pence to speak at the Class of 2020 Commencement on Saturday, August 29, 2020. We are concerned about the college’s blatantly inappropriate decision to invite the vice president to speak for this monumental event for the Class of 2020. Not only is the invitation disrespectful, but also the remarks provided by the college fail to recognize the reality of the decision.

WLC has insisted that this event, “is not in any way meant to be viewed as a political event, as it cannot be, and is not a political statement.” They claim the decision was apolitical. However, the mere invitation of a Vice President of an incredibly divisive and controversial ticket to speak in a swing state months before an election is ignorant and deceptive. Speaking to young adults months before an election is a political move and not one that WLC can decide is apolitical.

Praising Vice President Pence for his advocacy, “for the freedom of religious expression so that ministries like our churches and Wisconsin Lutheran College can flourish within a pluralistic society,” is problematic. This administration has been divisive and degrading. As a governor and now as the vice president, Mike Pence has failed to promote policies that reflect Christian values. The WLC administration should recognize, instead of ignoring, his problematic policies. WLC cannot and should not thrive from putting love on hold. Love must always come first. We invite you to rethink your priorities.

WLC cannot reasonably suggest that this is not an endorsement of any political party or candidate(s). Throughout the years, WLC continues to invite people that consistently support conservative and Republican politics, those who often claim Christian values in their rhetoric, but don’t always display them in their policies. Vice President Pence is no exception. It seems the WLC administration is not currently pushing an agenda of love for their neighbors.

Lastly, we would like to express our empathy and grief for the Class of 2020. We celebrate your achievements and congratulate you on your graduation. Your commencement ceremony should not have been infected by toxic politics. You didn’t ask for this, and you should not have needed to ask for this not to happen. Controversial political figures need to stay out of our academic celebrations. Please continue to shine in your future endeavors. We are excited for you and continue to keep you in our thoughts and prayers.

We invite concerned members of the WLC Community to join us in solidarity.

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