GROVE CITY, Pa. –
Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to address three college commencements this month, including Notre Dame and the Naval Academy.
But his first commencement speech will be Saturday at Grove City College, a small liberal arts and conservative Christian school in Mercer County.
While many are calling it a very special day, others are saying his invitation is inappropriate and are planning a resistance protest march.
The appearance by the Vice President is expected to double the size of the usual graduation day audience.
He’ll be addressing a record-breaking class of more than 600 graduates. “It’s the largest graduating class in the 140 year history of the college, so we’re very proud of that,” said Jacki Muller, Director of Marketing and Communications.
Pence is a long time friend of Grove City College President Paul McNulty from the time when both were in Washington, D.C.
The invitation to Pence was met with opposition from several quarters, including students, alumni, and faculty members concerned that the selection of Pence would serve as an endorsement of the Trump administration.
Some feel his appearance is inappropriate at a school that stands for conservative christian values. A resistance protest march is now planned off-campus during Pence’s visit.
“I think that you find that anywhere that this administration goes in this current climate, it’s a challenging time,” said Muller.
At Lapa’s Barber Shop in downtown Grove City, owner Frank Lapa hopes any demonstration will be peaceful. “We don’t want any trouble. We’re really happy and glad to have this college and then have people like that coming in here to build up Grove City,” Lapa said.
Muller says the college expects that the Vice President will have a positive message for the graduates as they take the next step in their lives, while those who oppose his visit will also have a voice.
“At Grove City College we’re really committed to the free exchange of ideas and civic debate. So those folks have an opportunity to have their voices head along with what we hope will be a wonderful celebration,” said Muller.
The college campus will have increased security on Saturday and the commencement exercise is by invitation only.