Notre Dame Picks Mike Pence as Commencement Speaker

The selection of Pence marks the first time a sitting vice president delivers the commencement address at the Catholic university.

Vice President Mike Pence
Vice President Mike Pence (photo: Gino Santa Maria via Shutterstock)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will be this year’s commencement speaker at the University of Notre Dame, it was announced Thursday.

This will mark the first time a sitting vice president delivers the commencement address at the university. Pence will also receive an honorary degree at the May 21 ceremony.

“It is fitting that in the 175th year of our founding on Indiana soil that Notre Dame recognize a native son who served our state and now the nation with quiet earnestness, moral conviction and a dedication to the common good characteristic of true statesmen,” said Notre Dame’s president, Holy Cross John Jenkins, in a statement.

“With his own brand of reserved dignity, Mike Pence instilled confidence on the state level then, and on the world stage now. We are proud to welcome him to represent the new administration.”

Pence was born in Columbus, Indiana, and served as governor of the state before becoming vice president.

Raised Catholic, he identified in 1994 as a “born-again, evangelical Catholic.” He started attending an evangelical megachurch with his family in the 1990s. It is unclear which church Pence attends now.

Known for his adamant pro-life stance, Pence stressed during the vice-presidential debate that his Christian faith hinges upon upholding the “sanctity of life.”

“It all, for me, begins with cherishing the dignity, the worth, the value of every human life,” Pence said on the debate stage. “For me, the sanctity of life proceeds out of the belief of that ancient principle, where God says: ‘Before you were formed in the womb, I knew you.’”

He harshly criticized Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine for their support of abortion.

“The very idea that a child that is almost born into the world could still have their life taken from them is just anathema to me. And I can’t conscience about a party that supports that,” Pence said.

Earlier this year, Pence became the first sitting vice president to address the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Pence is also known for his support of traditional marriage — he favored passage of a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

He also signed a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to establish legal protections for all those who conscientiously support traditional marriage and wish to live out their beliefs.

After a national uproar over the law’s perceived intolerance, Pence signed an amended version, one that Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation argued effectively gutted religious-freedom protections for entities other than nonprofits. In conflicts involving sexual orientation and gender identity, the law only protected nonprofits and their extensions.

Pence also had a public disagreement with Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis over the archdiocese’s role in resettling Syrian refugees.

After it was alleged that a terrorist posing as a Syrian refugee was responsible in part for the Paris terror attacks, the governor asked for a temporary halt to resettlement programs in the state for Syrians.

Before he met with Gov. Pence to discuss the matter a few weeks later, Archbishop Tobin asked Catholic Charities to resettle a Syrian refugee family in Indiana.

After the meeting, Pence’s office responded that the governor “respectfully disagrees with their decision to place a Syrian refugee family in Indiana at this time.” The dispute between the governor and the archbishop drew significant media attention in the days that followed.