Below is a letter I sent to my alma mater. I am sharing it here not because I want to make people mad, but because I spent four years hardly ever discussing my political views as a student. I believe the choice to bring Mike Pence to our college is short-sighted, and that many wise, remarkable individuals could have better aligned with the viewpoints and values of the college, its students, its staff, and its alumni. I care about my college too much not be disappointed and worried about the implications this invitation has. I invite respectful dialogue and alternative viewpoints in the comments below. 


Dear Grove City College leadership,

I send this letter today with a desire to respectfully disagree with the recent decision to invite Vice President Michael Pence to speak at this year’s Commencement exercises. Though I recognize that my letter will not alter the decision or planning that has gone and will go into this event, I do feel it is my duty as an alumnus of Grove City College to express my thoughts in order to help you understand the variety of perspectives your alums possess.

Grove City College is an institution that prides itself on being a place of “principle.” Simultaneously, Grove City College lists one of its core values as “faithfulness,” a tenant which plays out in a commitment to truth, one’s word, and The Word. Finally, Grove City College’s mission statement states that it desires to equip students through a Christ-centered learning and living experience” with the “promotion of the Christian worldview, the foundations of free society, and the love of neighbor.” As I weighed the news that my alma mater decided to invite Vice President Pence to speak at commencement, I found the choice to be inconsistent with the values GCC is supposed to espouse.

As I weighed the news that my alma mater decided to invite Vice President Pence to speak at commencement, I found the choice to be inconsistent with the values GCC is supposed to espouse.

Those who support your invitation of Pence have stated that we should not let his association with President Donald Trump invalidate him as a speaker worthy of the Grove City College stage. He is viewed by many as a man of principle, faithfulness, and a follower of Christ. It would be wrong of me to accuse Pence of a false faith, and I would not encourage others to do so. That being said, though Mr. Pence may be a Christian and a conservative—two traits also claimed by many of Grove City College’s students, alums, and family members—that does not mean he should be affirmed as role model and given a platform at this institution of higher learning. Nor does it feel very wise to allow him to become part of the greater Grove City College narrative, one that myself, my brothers, my parents, and my grandparents all claim as part of our own stories. Especially now.

Aside from my personal convictions and political opinions, and more importantly, I find it challenging to understand why Grove City College would choose to align itself with Mr. Pence at this time. Mr. Pence is part of (arguably) the most controversial administration in American history. He has aligned himself with an administration that ignores truth, claims the validity of “alternative facts,” preaches overt and easily dismissable lies, and displays blatant favoritism. Mr. Pence stood by as President Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries, an order which has since been found not only unconstitutional, but worthy of public rebuke by more than 100 widely respected evangelical leaders including Tim and Kathy Keller, Max Lucado, and Bill and Lynne Hybels.

The Trump administration is not founded in “principle,” unless that principle is relativism— a principle I was instructed on by GCC professors to explicitly reject…Trump is unapologetically anti-free press and has repeatedly disrespected the judicial process which Grove City College owes its cherished “spirit of independence” to.

The Trump administration is not founded in “principle,” unless that principle is relativism— a principle I was instructed on by GCC professors to explicitly reject. The Trump administration is led by a man who is not faithful to the standards of what Scripture calls Christians to; Christianity Today asserted that “Trump is an idolater in many ways. He has given no evidence of humility or dependence on others, let alone on God his Maker and Judge. He wantonly celebrates strongmen and takes every opportunity to humiliate and demean the vulnerable. He shows no curiosity or capacity to learn. He is, in short, the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool.” Finally, the Trump Administration does not promote a comprehensive Christian worldview, love of neighbor, or even the “free society” that so many professors and students on campus advocate for through an aggressive support of the Constitution. In less than four months, the Trump Administration does not seem to respect the Constitution with the kind of vigor Grove City College pursues; Trump is unapologetically anti-free press and has repeatedly disrespected the judicial process which Grove City College owes its cherished “spirit of independence” to.

For all these reasons and more, I am very disappointed and frankly shocked that the college has chosen Mike Pence as this year’s commencement speaker. On a day for graduates to celebrate four years of hard work, perseverance, sacrifice, and personal and spiritual growth, I find it sad and self-promoting in the worst ways to chose a speaker for this honor when he is part of an administration that is so dishonorable. While many folks will express support and enthusiasm for the choice, and have every right to do so, I cannot be one of those people. This is not a matter of intolerance for a viewpoint I do not align with, it’s a question of “Why him, why now?” 

The Grove City College my grandparents and parents attended was a place where students of a variety of political persuasions could learn and grow alongside one another. The Grove City College my brothers and I love is full of professors and students who challenged us to pursue truth and who encouraged us to be faithful to our Christian faith no matter how unpopular it made us. The Grove City College you’re presenting to the public through this choice is the one I desperately hoped did not exist: the one that retreats into an unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy that Grove City College is a place with a greater concern about becoming “the best” more than it is with becoming more like Christ. While having a Vice President speak at our college is indeed “impressive” based on the prestige of the role, I find prestige to be an overrated quality, one that is counter to the nature of Christ’s ministry.

As a Christian institution of higher learning, I simply wish GCC would have chosen someone else to speak during such a politically divisive time. After all, GCC is supposed to be a Christian college first, right?

As I begin to wrap up my comments, I share some final convictions I felt upon hearing of your choice to invite Vice President Pence. As a Christian institution of higher learning, I simply wish GCC would have chosen someone else to speak during such a politically divisive time. After all, GCC is supposed to be a Christian college first, right? A figure like Makoto Fujimura, Marilynne Robinson, or another Christian intellectual or figure committed to the pursuit of truth and beauty would have, in my opinion, been a more prudent choice. There are many remarkable, commendable speakers that could have been tapped for this occasion. At worst, choosing a different speaker would have meant that Grove City College wouldn’t have gotten as much attention, and your Admissions counselors would have had to work harder to recruit incoming students. At best, choosing a different speaker would have meant that you wouldn’t have alienated and offended hundreds of alumni and friends of Grove City College, and made us question your motives and values.  

To conclude, I recognize that I am not a trustee, a wealthy donor to the college, or the parent of a high school student; rather, I am a 23-year old with an opinion. It is presumable that because of those characteristics I’ve just described that my opinion does not hold much weight or influence. I can accept that. But what matters to me that is that I have let my voice be heard. I learned at Grove City College that speaking up for what is right is what is right. I learned at Grove City College that truth matters.

So as was requested in the email informing the student body of this decision, I will be praying about this. I will be praying that this decision doesn’t ruin commencement day for the graduates: Republican, Democrat, gay, straight, male, or female. I will be praying that students like me who decide to go to Grove City College won’t transfer out their freshman year like I considered doing because they feel so politically out of place. I pray that professors and students—the people who helped me love Grove City College—would continue to challenge ideas, denounce what is bad, and encourage what is good.

Sincerely,

Grace Peggy Jean Leuenberger, Grove City College Class of 2016

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Posted by:Grace Leuenberger

"I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.”

24 replies on “When Mike Pence Comes to Your Alma Mater

  1. I saw a link to your letter on a friend’s Facebook status. I did not go to GCC, but I was very surprised and a little disappointed to hear about their decision to invite VP Pence to speak at commencement if for no other reason than the very real possibility that his presence might make some graduates incredibly uncomfortable. Your letter was wonderful. Articulate, honest, loving. Brava!

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    1. Thank you very much! I appreciate your comment and feedback. I think the key here is understanding the difference between intolerance and dissent. In the meantime, I’m going to keep wrestling with this and will be interested to see how/if the administration responds to the large amount of dissenting voices.

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  2. Your letter is a travesty!! It is astounding to me that someone of the stature of Mike Pence would consent to come to a Jerkwater college such as Grove City College!! You and your classmates should get down on your knees and thank the Lord that he is honoring you!! Stop the whining , suck it up!! You are so typical of the Left Wing Liberals who have ruined our country!! The real world is going to be a total new experience for you!!

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    1. Hi Barbara, you are certainly entitled to your opinion! As a graduate of the college and an employee in the real world, I can say that I have found myself well-prepared by Grove City College to engage in a variety of thoughtful dialogue with people of many political, religious, and ethnic persuasions. As a member of a family with both republicans and democrats, I find that I take elections as they come (I have been registered to vote since 2011), and have found it important to vote for both liberals and conservatives based on my convictions that they will be good leaders. I look forward to seeing what leaders rise in the 2018 and 2020 elections, and what work they can do for both our country and the world. Until then, I’ll be trying to process through the issues to the best of my ability by seeking truth from my mentors and thought leaders that are wiser than I am.

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      1. My opinion is that your opinion is terrible. If the VP of the United States agrees to speak at your college and that hurts your feelings, go find a safe space. Don’t vent to us.

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  3. Thanks for writing this. I am undecided on how I feel about the whole issue, but as a parent of an alum and two current students, I appreciate your concern for this issue. May you survive the comments!

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Mr. Stein! I’ve been glad for the chance to dialogue with a variety of folks on this issue. It’s been good! I know your sons, Taylor and Andrew–they are great guys! Taylor sometimes comes to my church with our mutual friend, Dan!

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  4. Thanks for writing this. Though I strongly disagree, I am glad that you care about the integrity of your school. Your complaints seem aimed at Pence, for the behavior of Trump. Your complaints are also framed in the arguments of the left, rather than any problematic error by Pence. I think places like GCC are a great place for people to speak their minds, and that includes people like VP Pence. Open discussion is what makes a University experience so valuable. This is a timely event, what do Christians do, when they are called to be in the Secular arena, working for flawed people? Go, I say. There are broken people everywhere; ruling poorly and Christians can’t stay at arms distance. Joseph and Moses may be good examples of this…Western civilization may have many more modern examples of such men or women, very close to power, who were faith driven.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, David! Even though you might not agree with all my points, I appreciate your feedback and the way you’ve articulated that. I am interested to see what happens with my college in the future, and how these conversations continue to unfold. Hoping for the best, confident that God’s narrative wins out in the end.

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  5. Appreciate the writing. I am surprised that, as David referred to earlier, you stated that, “Those who support your invitation of Pence have stated that we should not let his association with President Donald Trump invalidate him as a speaker worthy of the Grove City College stage” and “It would be wrong of me to accuse Pence of a false faith, and I would not encourage others to do so.” and yet it seems that in many of your thoughts that is what you did do. Please correct me if I am wrong. If someone wants to make good change we must engage where the change needs to take place. That means we will need to fix what needs fixed and where it needs fixed. It sounds like you and I are both followers of Jesus the Christ as our Lord and Savior. By both of us being that I do not agree with everything that other followers of Jesus do. And I would say that there are some that claim to be followers of Jesus that don not follow the Lord’s teaching at all. You and I should nit be judged by their actions alone because of what they say and do. We should be judged by our actions and words. What do you think? Praying for you as we wrestle through this and work for the good in the Kingdom of God.

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    1. Please forgive my two typos… should be ‘do not follow…” and “You and I should not be judged by…”

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    2. Hello! Thank you for voicing your comments–I appreciate the respectful tone you took as well! Based on the information I have gathered and testimony from those who know him, I do think that Mr. Pence is, without a doubt, a Christian! I will not claim that my thoughts are not without error, or that I am not willing to see new viewpoints in this discussion! That being said (and you are free to disagree here), I do not see a large amount of evidence that Mr. Pence’s Christian faith is having an impact on Mr. Trump at this time, but I certainly hope that I am proven wrong in the future and that President Trump would adopt more of the Christian worldview myself and other alums of my college learned about in class and were encouraged to practice in our own faith journey. I am glad Pence is VP! Better him than many other folks. My comments in this post are not meant to mainly criticize Pence-the-VP, but VP-Pence-as-commencement-speaker. Does that make sense? I mainly take issue with the fact that bringing Pence feels to myself and many others as an endorsement of the Trump administration, which is not preferable for a Christian, nonprofit institution of higher learning. Whether we like it or not, that is how many feel, and how this decision appears to the public. Lastly, and as my closing comments say, I simply wish they would have chosen someone else this year that wasn’t so controversial. I think someone out of the political realm would have been appropriate, more reflective of the students and alumni, and more fitting to the liberal arts education that Grove City College focuses on. I am definitely praying about this, too! I never post political thoughts, so this post has been a good way for my discuss my thoughts with others, and learn how to hopefully engage respectfully with others during the course of conversation. Again, thank you for your thoughts, I hope my comments were enlightening!

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    1. Also, your wordpress article is not “speaking up.” I too am a recent GCC graduate and understand that if you have an issue with the college, you go to the source of the issue.. Not to third-party individuals and cry like a child about your personal belief and conviction experiences that you extrapolate to your entire college experience. If you are writing a letter to the college, the address is listed on their website. I pray you take your opinionated article down before you find yourself in the midst of having to find some truth to back up your opinions.

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      1. Hi, George, I will try to reply to your comments to the best of my ability! As I stated in the beginning of my post, the piece I published on this blog, which you read, is adapted from a letter I sent to the college leadership, including President McNulty. I sent the letter the day before I published this post, and only decided to take my thoughts public in order to share an alternative perspective with others. I have a great respect for President McNulty and have a personal relationship with him and his wife. If time allows and he is interested in doing so, I look forward to speaking with him on the phone about this issue, as he has my phone number. That being said, the letter was the beginning of the conversation! You are certainly allowed to feel supportive of the decision to allow Mr. Pence to speak at the college, as I am allowed to feel a different way. After all, this is freedom’s college! I will not be intolerant to the decision, but I can dissent against it. It doesn’t hurt my feelings, I just simply think it’s a bad idea and that someone else would have been a better choice. In the meantime, I am headed to work, where I am a professional copywriter with the largest business in the state of Pennsylvania. If you would like to share why you believe Mr. Pence is a good choice, please do! I think there is room here to discuss that without dismissing the thoughts of others.

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  6. As a fellow alumnus of GCC, I absolutely agree with your opposition and the reasons you provide. I was a classmate and XC teammate of your brothers, and I know that you come from a good, thoughtful, Christian family, and I’m sure that you, like myself, are trying to navigate the best way to live out your Christian faith in the world. It is admirable to examine and question the motivations of those in power rather than to blindly follow based on political affiliation. Kudos for making your thoughts known to the college and for sharing them publicly.

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    1. Thank you Jessica! I appreciated your comments, and I’m glad to know that you knew my brothers–they are great guys! I certainly am wrestling with all of this and am trying to be as thoughtful as I can as I process through current events, etc. Thanks again for your thoughts and for taking the time to read mine–I truly appreciate it!

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  7. Hi Grace, I so appreciate your articulate thoughts and bravery. I heard (and loved how) you represented the alumni as a main speaker on Accepted Student Day on April 1. What a roller coaster week this must have been for you.
    I am thankful for the faithful example that you and your family have set for many years. I pray that my son, a member of the incoming freshman class, has mentors and classmates like you, your brothers and your parents.
    I agree that the choice of Mike Pence is a misstep for the college and I struggle to see the Christlike example in the current Washington administration. Thank you! …and may Scripture be our guide because “we go nowhere by accident.”

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    1. Laurie, thank you so much for your comment! It truly means so much to me that you went out of your way to read my post and share your thoughts. Thank you for listening to me at Accepted Students Day–I’d certainly agree that it was a rollercoaster of a weekend! However, God has taught me much during this experience, and I am continuing to rely on him for wisdom and discernment in all things! I am really excited that your son has chosen GCC, and I genuinely believe that his presence there will be a great asset to the community and his peers. I am grateful for the role that the college has played in my life and my family’s life, and pray that the future of it is full of good conversations, thoughtful discourse, and hospitality to all. Thanks again, Laurie!

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  8. You give Mike Pence too much credit. False faith is too nice a phrase for him. He’s a toadie who repeats all of Trumps’s lies. This week he’s going around saying Comey was fired because of his actions on Hillary Clinton’s emails — and obvious lie. Sure enough Trump confirmed it was a complete lie. A man of faith doesn’t lie or follow the lead of a morally bankrupt charlattan.

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