“The foundation of freedom is faith.”
These were Mike Pence’s words as he addressed a 700-person crowd at Utah Valley University’s Noorda Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, Sept. 20th. Centering his message on the future of freedom, the 48th vice president of the United States shared his formula for a successful America, prefacing that he “came here today not to look backward, but to look forward.”
Outside the center, protestors displayed banners calling to attention heavily debated political and social issues prevalent within the United States.
Inside the center, the atmosphere was less objecting of Pence’s political stances.
“I am a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican in that order,” Pence said.
Pence, who previously served as the 50th governor of Indiana, focused his address on his culminating formula for a renewed foundation of freedom in the United States: the nuclear family, national unity, freedom of religion, immigration, restoring patriotic education, reviving the economy and strengthening military operations.
“In so many ways America is a nation in crisis. And now more than ever, we need to be training up a new generation of Americans to be instilled up with knowledge, respect and the patriotism necessary to strengthen and uphold our beloved republic, now more than ever,” Pence said. “In many ways, America today is almost unrecognizable from the days before the worst pandemic in 100 years struck our country.”
Citing inflation, the rise in gas prices and crime rates, border sieges and national debt, Pence said the biggest threat to America at present is the erosion of the nuclear family.
“The people of Utah know more than most; strong families make for strong communities. Strong communities make for a strong America,” Pence said. “Our highest priority in America today should be to preserve, renew and strengthen American families. America must put families first once again.”
Pence shared his thoughts on the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade and elaborated on the importance of families.
“We must restore the principle that we are a nation that cherishes every human life, born and unborn,” Pence said. “Today at long last, Roe v. Wade has been sent to the ash heap of history where it belongs, and the American people have been given a new beginning for life. Fifty years of heartbreak. Fifty years of lives of incalculable value, ended before they were born.”
Pence also addressed the nation’s border control issues and said “a nation without borders is not a nation.” Referencing conversations with former President Donald Trump, Pence relayed that he doesn’t just “get” the immigration issues, he has “lived” it, as his grandfather was an immigrant from Ireland.
“Men and women of Utah, we can secure our border, we can enforce our law, we did it in our administration and we reduced illegal immigration by ninety percent,” Pence said, referencing his time in the Trump administration. “We have an obligation as Americans to fix this broken immigration system so it works for Americans, and for those who desire to come here under the law and live the American dream, just like my grandfather.”
Pence also said the current generation might be the country’s last line of defense. “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” he said.
Pence advised the rising generation to rely on God, and said that in the White House all meetings end with a prayer and a “so help me God,” after which his upcoming book is also named.
Caleb Pollock, part of the rising generation to which Pence focused his address on, shared his thoughts on Pence’s outlook on freedom.
“I thought his interpretation of freedom was interesting because he related it much to the idea of this Western philosophy of there being a god,” Pollock said. “Hundreds of thousands, millions of these people don’t believe in a god at all, and this idea that we need national unity under this freedom, that we have this one freedom that’s like this ideal freedom. So many people don’t believe in that ideal freedom. So it’s kind of counter-intuitive that he’s like ‘we need to restore this freedom’ when so many people won’t even believe in that freedom the way he sees it.”
Other students from UVU shared thoughts on Pence’s address and the current political climate in America.
“I think his definition of freedom is when it’s convenient for him. It’s not freedom,” protestor Emma Morgan said. Referencing Pence’s comments on the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Morgan said “healthcare rights are a right not a privilege.”
Morgan was joined by a group of students outside the front of the Noorda Center for the Performing Arts following Pence’s address.
“We don’t think Mike Pence really represents freedom. He might use it as a slogan or phrase, but if you look at his policies, his support on conversion therapy and all those areas, he’s not a freedom guy. He just uses that rhetoric,” Simone Anderson said.
When asked what improvements they would like to see within American politics, Anderson shared concerns for LGBTQ and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) individuals.
“We would like to see more emphasis on BIPOC areas. We would like more consideration of that to be brought forward on the political stage,” Anderson said. “Biden is better, there’s no doubt about that. He overturned Trump’s ban on trans soldiers. What the Biden administration is doing is saying ‘you’re OK to be here.’ So he’s definitely better than Pence but that’s a low bar I think.”
During his address, Pence said that the Trump administration had reduced African American unemployment rates, and that “the American dream was working” at the time of Trump’s presidency.
Ending his address, Pence shared a final message for the rising generation regardless of political affiliation.
“There’s a misnomer out there in society today that ‘adversity creates character.’ The way my kids say it is, ‘whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.’ Well I have a different view. ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you, just didn’t kill ya.’ Adversity doesn’t create character — adversity reveals character,” Pence said. “When the hard times come, when your values and ideals are pressed, you will be in that moment, the man or woman you have been preparing to be in every quiet moment before.”