September 14, 2022 : By Ryan Klinker - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
In visiting the campus of Liberty University for the third time, 48th Vice President of the United States Mike Pence brought students at Wednesday’s Convocation a timely reminder of Christians’ role in the world today: to be faith-focused leaders and outspoken Christ followers.
Pence has continually spurred Liberty students to remain steadfast in their faith while staying informed on the country’s current events and its future. He last visited campus to deliver the 46th Commencement address in 2019 and spoke in 2016 Convocation as then-Indiana governor and Republican vice presidential candidate.
Campus Pastor Jonathan Falwell set the tone for the morning by reminding students that a key goal of Convocation is to remind them of how their faith ought to influence their lives and careers following their time at Liberty.
“Part of our Convocation purpose, what we do here, is to make sure that all of us understand that regardless of what we do in life, (our) faith is not something that we place on a shelf; it is something that you take with you wherever you might go,” Falwell said. “Today our guest is one who has been a model of that in his career.”
After an introduction by Helms School of Government Dean Robert Hurt, Pence took the stage and established himself as a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican — “in that order.” He shared his personal faith testimony, which began with a childhood and adolescent time in which he proclaimed to be a Christian but did not carry through with it in his daily life. That all changed when he began his college years, when he met young men who lived out their faith differently, and he was soon convicted by his passive, “phony” faith. Pence devoted his life and asked Christ to be his Lord and Savior at a Christian concert not long after.
“I stood up and walked down (to the front), not out of a sense of intellectual agreement or persuasion, but more because my heart was broken with gratitude for what had been done for me on the cross … and my life has never been the same,” Pence said.
Citing his faith as being at the forefront through it all, Pence outlined his ascension in the political sphere that led to his four-year term as Vice President of the United States, and he celebrated the victories that the Trump administration saw in economics, taxes, immigration, military affairs, and in the appointments of 300 conservative judges to the courts, including three Supreme Court justices. It was due to those appointments that Pence was proud to commemorate the June 24 overturning of Roe v. Wade in a victory for the pro-life movement.
“Let me say to each and every one of you from my heart: in this historic moment, I urge you in this rising generation to continue to be champions for life,” he said. “We must not rest and we must not relent until we restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law in every state of the nation.”
Pence said he came to Liberty University with a call to action for this generation. With many on the other side of the aisle pushing for Christian values to disappear from America, Pence encouraged students to defend their beliefs in a potential last stand.
“Today I come to tell you to prepare your minds for action,” he said. “As the Bible says, ‘To whom much is given, much will be required.’ Take time in these years of study to understand what made this country special and unique. You must be the freedom generation, because the truth is your generation may be the last line of defense for the Constitution of the United States.”
“I urge you to let the Constitution be your guide; understand it, study it, and learn it as Americans, because you may well in your life be called on in unique ways to defend it,” he added.
It is not easy to be a Christian in America today, Pence explained, and he implored Liberty students to not back down.
“We must, as the Bible says in Psalm 15, be prepared to keep our oath even when it hurts,” he said. “I want to challenge you here at this Liberty University Convocation: renew your commitment to become men and women of integrity. The nation (needs) you, maybe as never before. When the hard times come, when your convictions are tested, you will be in that moment the man or woman you have been preparing to be on every quiet day before.”
He emphasized the importance of chasing life pursuits with faith at the center.
“I say to this rising generation, particularly those who aspire to leadership in public or private life: use this time in your life to develop the qualities of the inner man and inner woman that will make you into the leaders that America needs,” Pence said. “Stand strong, grow in your understanding of your faith, take that quiet time every day to read what (God) has to say, and share your heart. Our nation and our world need your example of grace and truth more than ever before.”
In the times of trouble, when their faith is being tested or outright criticized in America today, Christians need to remember that the Lord is with them. Pence referenced the biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as he reminded students that “there is another in the fire.”
“Remember that the foundation of America is freedom, but the foundation of freedom is faith,” he said in closing. “As you strengthen the foundation of faith in your life, you will strengthen the foundations of this last best hope of earth. Go with confidence, always remembering that where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
Students said Pence’s message left them with hope and said his genuine passion for them shone through.
“He did a great job explaining his perspective, worldview, and hope for the future in us as young leaders of faith … to go out into the world and champion our values,” said Jesse Hughes, a junior studying pre-law and history. “It was very relatable, and the message and ideas that he was expounding were timeless in their relevance.”
“His character, virtue, kindness, and convictions really struck the heart of the Liberty student body, which is to be Champions for Christ and stand for truth in the public arena,” said junior government student Daniel Hostetter, Liberty’s student body president. “Pence displayed such a kindness and virtue today that shows his heart is to build the kingdom of God above all else. As someone who wants to go into public service, this was a great lesson to put Christ first above everything.”
Following his time on the Convocation stage, Pence spoke with students from the Helms School of Government and School of Law in a special Q&A session.