May 24, 2008
The typescript version of this speech by then-Congressman Mike Pence
is available at the Duggan
Library Archives, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.).
N.B. Ellipses are as they appeared in the original text.
As Prepared for Delivery
To President De Wine, Chairman Phillip Scott, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, families and graduates of the class of 2008 . . . .
I am deeply humbled to have been invited to address the 175th commencement ceremony of the oldest college in the state of Indiana.
Hanover is such a special place to me. It has come to mean education, friendships and faith.
I first came here for basketball camp in the 8th grade and met Billy Keller and other ABA greats . . . ok kids, never mind.
I arrived at Hanover in 1977, stood in front of Crowe hall as my parent drove away and wondered if I'd ever make it. I was scared. A small town boy, 90 miles from home, with just one pay phone in the lobby, I was homesick by the dinner.
And then I met my roommate, attended my first class, went to my first fraternity p--, er, "social gathering" and I never looked back. I was hooked on Hanover and I still am.
Hanover College left a legacy of education in my life.
Twenty-seven years ago, I was standing at this podium speaking at my own graduation. You see, I had the privilege of serving as the senior speaker for the class of 1981. Not to cut corners on today but I did dust off that speech to see how it's holding up and, I've got to tell you, it's doing pretty well . . . . In that speech, I reflected on the foundations poured in my life by that day in 1981. . . foundations of gratitude to teachers, administrators, friends and family. And I talked about getting even.
I titled that 1981 speech, "GETTING EVEN" because some of my less helpful classmates had suggested, "it was a perfect opportunity to get even with the Administration".
Disagreeing with my own Administration has become something of a habit in my life!
I said, "I would like to dedicate this talk to the prospect of getting even, not only with the administration but parents and professors as well. And why not? When one takes even a moment to consider the circumstances of not only the last four years but our entire lives, the process of getting even becomes not only plausible but in many ways a lifetime responsibility."
I singled out the parents in the crowd saying, "you've been there our entire lives, loving, helping and many times carrying us through when alone we could go no further. . . . You've given us everything right down to the gift of our own lives. Against such a debt there can be no recompense."
Ok, I was a little verbose back then. Okay, I was a little more verbose.
I also singled out professors saying, "demonstrating nothing less than selfless dedication in the face of our own ignorance, you remained steadfast in the belief that we could, in fact, be educated. . . . Seated among you we find our idol and our nemesis, our mentor and our dear friend."
To members of the college administration, I said, "you contrived to bring us into an environment which would secure not only our intellectual development but social and eventually economic as well."
I'm glad I got a chance to give that speech and thank my parents, teachers and faculty.
My Dad would be gone just a few years later. He never saw it coming. We never saw him going. As I read those words again, o was glad to know I had said them to him and that I get to say them to my beloved mother again today. nancy Pence Fritsch is with us today.
My first bit of advie to you graduates is honor your faithful family today . . . your Mom and Dad deserve to hear, at least once, what all this has meant to you. Let's thank the parents who are with us today.
I also say graduates, begin this day, getting even with those professors, counselors and administrators who poured this place into your lives. They will pick it up and do it all again next year but they will miss you. . . . Let's thank that professor and administrator today.
Hanover College has left a legacy of enduring friendships in my life. . . . "Hanover friends". You graduates know what I'm talking about. Friendships -- Hanover style -- that started to form the first day you arrived here and have quickened ever since. In the faces of Gabe, and Murph, and Jay and Dr. Curtis, the legendary friendships of my youth were formed.
One of my favorite pictures was taken on this day, the pillars of parker behind us, wearing gowns and holding diplomas, I am standing next to one of the best friends of my life . . . Jay Steger.
You've seen them too Haven't you? You probably walked to the ceremony with them today and discussed how lame this was all going to be. You're going to take that picture today. And you're worried this is the end. You wonder if you'll ever see them again.
Well, I can tell you, or Jay Steger who is sitting over there can tell you or Murph sitting here on the stage can tell you or Dr. Curtis standing back under that tree can tell you . . . . Hanover bonds are the ties that bind. Don't worry about losing these friends.
My second piece of advice to the class of 2008 is decide today to take these faithful friends into your future. Other than the bonds that soldiers form, I can think of no more permanent ties than among those who have walked among these trees, slain the academic dragons and cried and prayed each other through this passage to adult life.
And lastly, Hanover College left a legacy of faith in my life.
When I think of this day 27 years ago, I remember how much I was bluffing my way through it. Underneath the confident air and (admittedly) dashing good looks, was worry . . . plain and simple. Worried about failure. Worried about the future. Worried about falling short of my dreams. Would I ever find HER? Would I ever make it THERE? A great family, the finest liberal arts education in America, there were no more excuses. . . the weight of expectations was pressing down on my shoulders. . . I would've been a mess, but for Hanover's last great legacy in my life.
There was one other person I met during my years here who changed my life more than all the friends and family and faculty combined.
He said, two millennia ago, "who of you by worrying can a single hour to his life? . . . So do not worry saying, what shall we eat or what shall we drink or what shall we wear? . . . your heavenly father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and hist righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.
Thirty years ago this spring, I embraced the truth while "youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall, they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength."
When I left this campus, I left with friendships and education and family and I left with faith that He who I met in this place, in that quiet chapel and sitting among these trees, would go before me and He has.
And in the past 27 years . . . by His grace . . .
I met HER.
I got THERE.
I've seen the death of those I cherish and the birth of the greatest children in the world.
I've survived my deepest disappointments and I've lived my greatest dreams.
And still Hanover remains, in my heart, unchanged, lost in the ether of my youth, a debt I will never repay.
I know now, I will never Get Even with Hanover College.
To the graduates of the class of 2008, I say -- leave here with your friends, with gratitude for your family and your school and leave here with the faith that He who brought you to this special place will continue to lead you and guide you and prosper you.
Congratulations and God speed.