Liberal students wanted to hear Pence speak. Attendees described VP's speech as 'respectful,' 'accepting.'
Vice President Mike Pence addressed an 800-person crowd at the University of Virginia Tuesday night.
Students told Campus Reform that even though they disagree with Pence they were willing to attend and listen to what he had to say.
Vice President Mike Pence addressed an 800-person crowd at the University of Virginia Tuesday night with one goal: to keep the “torch of life and liberty” alive.
— Kara Zupkus (@kara_kirsten) April 12, 2022
The event was highly anticipated on campus and the Vice President was welcomed by a full house. Ticketholders were allotted entry one hour prior to the event, however, the standby line began forming nearly two hours before the event was scheduled to begin.
According to one attendee, the event was the best speech he had attended.
“[It was] one of the most lovely speeches ever,” attendee Noah Plues told Campus Reform. “He just gave off this impression of accepting everyone and there was no foul discourse between anybody.”
“It was the first time I’ve ever seen something like this in person,” he said.
Brian Stoss, who also attended the event, echoed Plues by saying that while some of Pence’s comments would be considered controversial, the overall tone of the event was “respectful.”
“He kept things broad, he knew his audience. Every now and then there’d be a sharp comment that some people would find controversial,” Stoss recounted. “One of my friends left because of a controversial statement that was made, but as a politician, that’s kind of his job. He has to have a stance and stick with it.”
The line to hear Pence speak stretched down the pathway outside the Auditorium. Regardless of political affiliation, many students were excited to hear from the 48th Vice President.
“It’s the Vice President,” event attendee Ethan remarked. “That’s cool, I want to see that. I want to see the big guy on campus.”
Another student in line, known as Jonathan, told Campus Reform that while he doesn’t align with Pence’s ideology, he appreciates the experience.
“I don’t agree with what Mike Pence is most likely going to talk about here, but I’m certainly interested in at least giving it a chance and getting this experience that is hard to get every day,” he said.
Jonathan’s expression was widely held by those in line. One student in the group even sported a Biden hat.
Other students told Campus Reform that even though they disagree with Pence they were willing to attend and listen to what he had to say.
“I’m not the biggest supporter of Mike Pence, but I think that free speech is important and I like to hear different opinions,” attendee Mitchell Cheng told Campus Reform.
The event, titled “How to Save America From the Woke Left,” drew national attention to the Charlottesville campus after a heated debate over the free speech on college campuses raised the question of whether Pence should be given a platform to speak.
Students and faculty were divided over the conflict, which spiraled after an editorial published by the student newspaper The Cavalier Daily labeled Pence’s rhetoric as “hateful” and “violent” and called for his invitation to be revoked.
Protesters, who gathered in minimal numbers outside the event, agreed with de-platforming Pence, telling Campus Reform that college campuses are not a place to embrace the marketplace of ideas or introduce conservative opinions.
“People do wanna hear a difference of opinions, but I'm not sure a college campus is necessarily the best place for introducing those opinions," one protester said.
Pence acknowledged the conflict during his speech, earning a laugh from the audience after stating he heard his presence invoked a “little controversy.” Such reactions are not unusual, and UVA is not the first school to elicit a knee-jerk response from student activists.
Pence received a similar response from students at Stanford University in February when the school's student government denied funding to the hosting student organization.
According to Pence, the conflict is only another example of an ongoing assault on free speech under the Biden administration.
“I don’t have to tell conservatives on this or any other campus in America, in the midst of that assault has been an assault on free speech,” Pence said on the stage.
He then commemorated the 17 faculty members of the university who penned a response to the student editorial to advocate for the importance of fostering free expression and dialogue on campus.
“The freedom of speech is the God-given birthright to every American, and we cannot let the woke left take it away,” Pence assured.
“Thankfully, I’m proud to report that the American people have been stepping up for freedom,” he continued, “just like courageous voices did here and did at other university campuses where I’ve had the privilege to speak.”
He also offered a piece of advice to a student before the event who was concerned about the use of self-censoring on campus by students for fear of retaliation from liberal professors or peers.
“Speak up and smile,” Pence dared. By doing so, he assured the audience that they would be carrying on the legacies of patriots such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, both of whom played a founding role in the university.
Pence's speech centered around the premise of freedom, and he opened his talk by quoting founding father Benjamin Frankin.
“A Republic, if you can keep it, and conservatives know we can keep our republic, and we will keep the torch of life and liberty burning bright for every generation to come," he said. “But we need this generation to be the freedom generation, starting right here in UVA."
Pence also delivered commentary on the status of the Biden administration and disparaged the White House for its poor handling of the economy and border security, as well as its lack of resolve to crack down on crime in American cities.
He also discussed the onslaught of policies that have worked to wage an “assault on culture and values,” slamming the administration for endorsing replacing “patriotic education” with a political agenda.
“Patriotic education has been replaced by political indoctrination,” Pence declared about Critical Race Theory. He rebuked the administration for pushing the agenda while cutting the 1776 Commission that was spearheaded under the Trump administration.
Pence then called on every state to ban the “racist” curriculum from classrooms, a trend that has spread like wildfire across the country.
Campus Reform is currently tracking which states have taken action to restrict CRT content from both K-12 and college curricula.
Pence also reminisced about his own days in the White House, praising the Trump administration for advancing military initiatives, building a strong economy, and being the most pro-life administration to date.
The 48th Vice President of the United States was hosted by Young Americans for Freedom at UVA as part of a series of speeches delivered on college campuses. The speeches are a part of Young America’s Foundations Ken and Janice Shengold Advancing Freedom Lecture Series.
Campus Reform contacted UVA and YAF for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.
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