Former Vice President Mike Pence took aim at the “woke left,” cancel culture and the Biden administration in a highly anticipated speech on Thursday. Pence urged students to embrace conservative values, praised his administration’s accomplishments and reiterated his stance that he lacked authority to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The event, titled “How to Save America From the Woke Left,” was hosted by the Stanford College Republicans (SCR) and the Young America’s Foundation. Pence spoke to students and community members in a packed Dinkelspiel Auditorium.
As audience members streamed into the venue, they were met with more than 80 protesters outside who chanted “hate should not be taught here,” “a space for Pence is a space without me” and “shame on you.”
“The protestors outside claiming conservatives shouldn’t be free to have a voice here are a testament to why this exact event needs to happen,” said Sarah Olmstead ’23, a co-president of SCR, who introduced Pence.
The decision to hold the event followed months of uncertainty — SCR’s Standard Grant application for funding was rejected by the Undergraduate Senate. But the Constitutional Council later ruled that the Senate did not follow proper procedure and that it had actually approved funding.
“I understand it took a little bit of doing to get me to campus but I got to tell you the stand that you took for freedom of speech on the campus of Stanford inspired people around the country,” Pence said at the onset of his remarks.
Moments later, a student heckled Pence, yelling profanities, “you separated families at the border” and “you are not entitled to this speech.” Over the course of the event, Pence was heckled by a number of attendees who were asked to leave the auditorium by Stanford staff members.
Pence, the nation’s 48th vice president, served his home state of Indiana as governor and congressman before joining the Trump administration. He said he began his political career as the Youth Democratic Party coordinator in Bartholomew County, Indiana in 1976, but switched political allegiances during Ronald Reagan’s run for the White House. The candidate’s vision for limited government and traditional values appealed to him — “I’ve never looked back,” Pence said.
The speech went through a laundry list of Trump administration accomplishments, including tax cuts, Operation Warp Speed and the appointment of nearly 300 judges to the federal courts. At the same time, Pence was critical of the Biden administration on rising gas prices, inflation, an influx of individuals entering via the southern border, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and a vaccine mandate that was recently struck down by the Supreme Court — a move Pence applauded.
“I got the vaccine myself, I got the booster myself but I got to tell you what — in a free society, that’s the choice every American should be able to make,” Pence said, which prompted boos from the crowd.
But Pence was perhaps most critical of what he called the Biden administration’s “wholehearted embrace of the woke left’s all-encompassing assault on culture and values.”
“I hardly have to tell conservatives or Stanford College Republicans or any conservatives on campuses in America about the assault on free speech,” Pence said. “Cancel culture is the order of the day. Patriotic education has been replaced with political indoctrination.”
“The antidote is freedom,” he added. “You need to be the freedom generation.”
In recent weeks, Pence, who is thought to have presidential ambitions of his own, has gone back and forth with Trump on whether the former vice president had the ability to overturn the results of the presidential election.
Though Pence had already said in a speech earlier this month that Trump was “wrong” to say that he had the authority to change the results of the election, he emphasized the point in his speech on Thursday.
“The Constitution was quite clear on that tragic day in January. I knew what my duty was. And I kept my oath even though it hurt. We moved the nation forward,” Pence said. “I don’t know if the president and I will ever see eye to eye on that. I really don’t but I will always be proud of the record that President Donald Trump and I created for the American people.”
At the end of his speech, Pence invited audience members to ask him questions, most of which addressed the issues of cancel culture, political polarization and climate change. However, some audience members used the opportunity to trade quips with Pence, with one asking about where they could find the restroom and the other asking “would you rather have a gay son or a thot daughter.”
As part of his political handbook to counter the “woke left,” Pence called for students to “wrap your mind and your heart” around the U.S. founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
“So I encourage you to be a generation that keeps your oath,” Pence said. “It really is in the heart of every American to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”