GROVE CITY, Pa. (WYTV) – Vice President Mike Pence was in Mercer County Saturday morning to deliver the keynote address at Grove City College’s 137th commencement.
The largest class in the college’s history graduated — 606 students — and more than 6,000 people were in attendance.
Pence, the highest-ranking official to ever speak at the college, told the graduates to be leaders. He pointed to President Donald Trump’s leadership as an example.
“You’re gonna face challenges in the days that will unfold after this day — and occasionally encounter a set back,” Pence said. “But I want you to trust that dream that’s in your heart and never let it go.”
Pence also told them to have courage and listen and learn from criticism they may receive, but most importantly, to persevere.
“Anyone who dreams big will encounter those who think small, anyone who dares to step forward will find those who rather they stay put, and anyone who thinks they can will always hear from those who are sure they can’t,” he said.
Pence then shook the hands of each graduate as they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.
Students WYTV talked to enjoyed the VP’s speech.
“I was a little concerned about it going in because I’m not particularly supportive of the Trump presidency,” said John Anastasio. “But I thought he did a fantastic job with the speech and I really have a lot of respect for the guy.”
“I thought he had a really good speech,” said John Hunter, a crowd member. “Especially for the graduates coming along — the trials and tribulations in their future.”
A group called Slippery Rock Huddle had people protesting Pence’s arrival, but the group did not disrupt the graduation ceremony. The group said it was resisting the policies and actions of the Trump and Pence administration.
Pence began his day in the Valley via the Youngstown Warren Regional Airport.
He arrived along with his wife Karen aboard Air Force II. Pence and the “Second Lady” were then greeted on the ground by a group of local community and business leaders — including Leo Connelly, a Vietnam War veteran.
Some people even went out to the airport just to catch a glimpse of him and his motorcade.
“I think that it’s just exciting and that it’s important that we come out [and] support all of our elected officials,” said Carol Bauzo.
After the almost 45 minute drive to campus, the vice president met with Kurt and Margie Kondrich and their daughter Chloe, who is featured in a book about children with autism.
He was then was greeted with a standing ovation and applause at the commencement ceremony, where he gave his 15 minute speech.
After leaving the Valley around 2 p.m., Pence headed to Indiana.
The school had been preparing for Pence’s arrival all week, setting up barricades and getting security in order.
Grove City College President Paul McNulty says having Pence deliver the commencement speech gives value to his students.
“The vice president is a person who really shares the same values that Grove City College has,” he said. “It’s an honor for us to host him here and we are going to make a great memory for our students and their families.”
McNulty said the college always looks for a special commencement speaker, but this isn’t the first time a big name in politics has spoken at Grove City College’s graduation. Jeb Bush, Laura Bush and Ben Carson have been commencement speakers in the past.
Pence will also give the commencement speech at Notre Dame tomorrow. Thousands will be graduating but not everyone will be sticking around until the end. Some students plan to walk out of graduation when the vice president steps up to speak. They say it’s over his stances on healthcare, immigration and LGBTQ rights.