Mike Pence – The Constitution and the Presidency
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Mike Pence – The Constitution and the Presidency


All of us students here at Hillsdale, study
Pericles’ Funeral Oration. Thucydides records his words to the Athenians, “The bravest are
surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike
and yet not withstanding go out to meet it.” A year ago American Conservatives were in
retreat and disarray. The media chanted to Republicans, “You must become moderates or
go extinct. The spectra of our new president’s post Christian, post American role loomed
in progressive dominated congress, courts and white house. It seemed like there was
no line left for us to hold. A few leaders saw the personal and political dangers of
standing fast by principle yet forged on with vision. As president of the Hillsdale College
Republicans, it’s my honor to introduce you to one of those leaders, congressman, Mike
Pence of Indiana. His uncompromising vision was recognized by
The American Conservative Union who honored him in 2006 with The Courage Under Fire Award.
He was named Man of The Year in 2005 by Human Events, standing among previous recipients
of this honors such as Justice Clarence Thomas, Charlton Heston and Ronald Reagan. He demonstrated
his conviction by standing against his own party opposing the Prescription Drug Benefits
Expansion of Healthcare Entitlements. He voted against No Child Left Behind because he believed
it undermined local control of education through it Federal mandates. Something we at Hillsdale
ought to know something about. He led the largest caucus in Congress, The House Republican
Study Committee which under his chairmanship grew to 110 members and has consistently given
birth to intelligent conservative alternatives to the behemoth state. Last week on September 12th he told thousands
of Americans standing before the United States Capital, “There’s nothing that ails this government
that cannot be solved by paying more careful attention to the principles enshrined in the
constitution of United States.” Like the beacon of truth, we shine here at Hillsdale and now
in Washington at the Kirby Center, Congressman Pence continues in the practices of the constitution
and in the principles of the Declaration of Independence that our education has instilled
in us. On behalf of the Hillsdale College Republicans and Hillsdale College, we are
honored to present, please welcome the Honorable Congressman, Mike pence. Mike Pence:
President and Mrs. Arnn, Mr. John Cervini. Dr. David Bob and Elliot. College Republicans
and each and every one of the faculty gathered here today and all the students here at Hillsdale
College who have taken time, good evening. As I’m sure you know, honor is what allows
us to do what is right despite the cost. Even greater honor is required to do what is right
in the face of superior power and the greatest honor is to stand strong even when it means
standing alone. The long fight at Hillsdale College, standing alone, then and now for
the proposition that all men are created equal, then with Fredrick Douglas, now with Clarence
Thomas. Then and now in the conviction that Americans are not horses, we were not born
to have saddles on our backs, by anyone, at any time, for any reason. This long fight
you at Hillsdale have fought. For love of ideas that did not come in dreams or as Reagan
said, “Did not spring full bloom from your brow, but came from the heart of a great nation.”
Ideas that rose in a time of unprecedented stress and genius and since the founding have
kept this country whole, prosperous, safe, just and free. It’s therefore a profound honor for me to
stand before you in this place, so closely associated with the founding of the Republican
Party, in our position to the unforgivable sin of slavery, this place where statesmanship
is taught as an art and where right conduct is seen its own reward. I thank you and may
God bless you and God bless Hillsdale College. I rise to pay a debt of honor and a debt to
history. My subject today is the presidency. My hope is that you will see that institution
in a new light and that you never despair of the republic. The presidency is the most
visible thread that runs through the tapestry of the American government. More often than
not for good or for ill. It sets the tone for the other branches and spurs the expectations
of the people. It’s powers are vast and consequential. It’s requirements from the outset and by definition,
impossible for mortals to fulfill without humility and insistent attention to its purpose
as set forth in the constitution of the United States. Isn’t it amazing given the great and momentous
nature of the office that those who seek it seldom pause to consider what they’re seeking?
Rather unconstrained by principle or reflection, there seems to be a mad rush towards something
that once it’s powers are seized, the new president can wield it as an instrument with
which to transform the nation and the people according to his highest aspirations. Other
than in the crisis of a house divided, the presidency is neither fit nor intended to
be such an instrument. When it is made that, the country sustains a wound and cries out
justly and indignity. What the nation says, in the theme of this address, what it says
informed by its long history, impelled by the laws of nature and nature’s God, what
it says quite naturally and rightly if not always gracefully is that we as a people are
not to be ruled and not to be commanded. It states that the president should never
forget this, that he has not risen above us but is merely one of us, chosen by ballot,
dismissed after his term, tasked not to transform and work his will upon us but to bare the
weight of decision and to carry out faithfully the design laid in the constitution and impassioned
by the Declaration of Independence. The presidency must adhere to its definition as expressed
in the constitution and to conduct itself, the conduct that is defined over time and
tradition. While the powers of the office have in large with those of the Legislature
and the Judiciary, the framework of the government was actually intended to restrict abuses common
to classical empires and the regal states of the 18th century. Without proper adherence to the role contemplated
in the constitution for the presidency, the checks and balances of the constitutional
plan become weakened. This has been most obvious in recent years when the three branches of
government have been subject to the tutelage of a single party. Under either party, presidents
have often forgotten that they’re intended to restrain congress at times and that the
congress is independent of their desires. That’s fused in some unity, the political
class has raged forward in expansion of powers and prerogatives, mistakenly assuming that
to exercise power is by default to do good. Even the simplest among us knows that this
is not so. Power is an instrument of fatal consequence.
It is confined no more readily than quick silver and escapes good intentions as easily
as air flows through mesh. Therefore, those who are entrusted with it must educate themselves
in self-restraint. A republic, if you can keep it is about limitation and for good reason,
because we’re mortal and our actions are imperfect. The tragedy of presidential decision is that
even with the best choice, some perhaps many will be left behind and some, perhaps many
could die, because of this truth, the true statesman lives continuously with what Churchill
called stress of soul, “He may give to Paul but only because he robs Peter.” That is why
you must be always weary of a president who seems to float on his own greatness. For all greatness is tempered by mortality,
every soul is equal. Distinctions among men cannot be owned, they’re on loan from God
who takes them back and evens the accounts in the end. It’s a tragedy indeed the new
generations taking off as attribute failures in governance to insufficient power and seek
more of it. In the Judiciary this is seldom been better expressed than by Justice Thurgood
Marshal dictum that, “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up.” In the
congress it presents itself in massive legislation, acts and codes, thousands of pages long and
so monstrously overcomplicated that no human being can read through them in a lifetime,
much less understand them, much less apply them justly to the people that increasingly
feel that they’re no longer being asked, they’re being told. Our nation finds itself in the position of
a dog, whose duty is not to ask why because the why is too elevated for its nature, it’s
simply to obey. America is not a dog and does not require a “Because I said so,” jurisprudence
to which it’s then commanded to catch up or legislators who knit laws of such insulting
complexity that they’re heavier than chains or a president who acts like, speaks like
and is received as a king. The presidency has run off the rails, it begs a new clarity,
a new discipline, a new president. The president is not our teacher, our tutor, our guide or
ruler. He does not command us, we command him. We serve neither him nor his vision.
It is not his job or his prerogative to redefine custom, law and beliefs, to appropriate industries,
to seize the country as it were by the shoulders so as to impose by force theatrical charisma
his justice on 300 million others. It is neither his job nor his prerogative to shift the power
of decision away from the people to the accolades of his choosing. Is my characterization of unprecedented presumptions
incorrect? I defer to the judgement of the people which they will make with their own
eyes and ears. Listen to the exact words of the leader of the president’s transition team
and perhaps his next chief of staff, who said two years age, “It’s important that president
elect Obama is prepared to really take power and begin to rule day one.” More recently
from the words of the latest presidential appointment to avoid confirmation by the senate,
the new head of the Financial Consumer Bureau wrote last Friday, “President Obama understands
the importance of leveling the playing field and creating protections that work not just
for the wealthy or connected.” Take power, rule, leveling. Though it is now,
this has never been and should never again be the model of the presidency or the character
of an American president. No one can say this too strongly and no one can say it enough
until it is remedied, we are not subjects we are citizens. We fought our wars so that
we don’t even have to treat kings like kings. If I may remind you, we won that war. Since
then the principle of royalty has in this country been inoperative and who is better
suited or more required to exemplify this conviction in word and deed than the president
of the United states. The powers of the presidency are extraordinary
and necessarily great and great presidents treat them sparingly. For example, it is not
the president’s job to manipulate the nation’s youth for the sake of his agenda or his party’s.
They’re a portent political force when amassed by the social network to which you’re incessantly
connected. If the president has their true interest at heart, he will neither flatter
them nor let them adore him. For in flattery is condensation and in adoration is direction.
It’s hard to say in this room but youth is neither seasoned nor tested enough to direct
a nation, nor should it, the president’s business be to presume to direct them. It’s difficult
enough to do right by your own kids. No one can be the father of all the nation’s youth. Is the president therefore expected to turn
away from this and other easy advantage? Yes. Like Harry Truman who went to bed before the
result on election night, he must know when to withdraw, to hold back, to forego attention,
publicity and advantage. No finer or more moving or more profound understanding of the
nature of the presidency and the command of humility placed upon it has ever been expressed
than by president Coolidge. He like Lincoln lost a child while he was president. A son
of 16. Coolidge wrote, “The day I became president, my son had just started working in a tobacco
field when one of his fellow laborer said to him, if my father was president, I would
not be working in a tobacco field and young Mr. Coolidge replied, if my father were you
father, you would.” His admiration for the boy was obvious. While in the White House president Coolidge’s
boy contracted blood poisoning from an incident on the south lawn of the White House. Coolidge
wrote this words that a father can understand, “What might have happened to him under other
circumstances we do not know but if I’d not been president …” Then he continues “In
his suffering he was asking me to make him well and I could not.” When he went, the power
and the glory of the presidency went with him. Sensibility such as this and not power
is the source of presidential dignity and must be restored. It depends entirely upon
character, self-discipline and an understanding of the fundamental principles that underline
not only the republic but life itself. It communicates that the president feels the
gravity of his office and is willing to sacrifice himself. His eye is not upon his own prospects
but on the storm of history through which it is his responsibility to navigate with
the specific powers accorded to him and limitations placed upon them not merely by man in his
desire but by God in His. The modern presidency has drifted far from the great strength and
illumination of its source. The constitution has given life by the passionate Declaration
of Independence. The Constitution terse, sober and specific does not accept by implication
address the president’s demeanor but this we can read in the best qualities of the founding
generation which we would do well to imitate. In the Capitol rotunda our heroic paintings,
one of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, another of the victory at Saratoga another
of the victory at York Town. Something seldom seen in history, there is
a painting of a general, the leader of an armed rebellion resigning his commission and
turning his army over to a democratically elected government. Upon hearing from Benjamin
West that George Washington having won then war and then urged to use the army to make
himself king would instead return to his farm, George III said, “If he does that, he will
be the greatest man in the world.” He did and he was. To aspire to such virtue and self-restraint
would be in a sense be difficult but in another sense, it should be easy. Difficult because
it would be demanding and ideal and easy because it is the right thing to do and the rewards
are immediate and self-evident. A president who slights the constitution is
like a rider who hates his horse, he will be thrown and the nation along with him. The president
solemnly swears to preserve, protect and defend the constitution. He does not solemnly swear
to ignore, overlook, supplement or re-interpret it other than in a crisis of morality, decency
or existence like the civil war. If the president should want to hurry along the constitution
to fit his own notions or designs he should do so by amendment rather than adjustment,
for if he joins the powers of his office to his own willful interpretation he steps away
from a government of laws and toward a government of men. Is the constitution a fluctuating and inconstant
document? A collection of suggestions, the purpose of which is to stimulate debate in
a future to which the founders were necessarily blind? Progressives tell us that even the
framers themselves could not reach agreement in its regard but they did. They did agree
upon it and they wrote it down and they signed it and they lived by it. It’s words are unchanging
and unchangeable except as planned by careful amendment. There’s no instruction to the president
to override the law and like Justice Marshal, to let it catch up to his superior conception.
Why is this good? It’s good because the sun will burn out, the Ohio river will follow
backwards and a cow will jump over the moon 10,000 times before any modern president’s
conception is superior to that of the founders of this nation. Would it be such a great surprise that a good
part of the political strife of our times is because one president after another rather
than keeping faith to it argues with the document he is supposed to live by? This discontent
will only be calmed by returning the presidency to the great first principles. The president
should regard the constitution and the Declaration like an obsessed lover. They should be on
his mind all the time. The prism through which the light of all questions of governance passes,
that we have sometimes gradually, sometimes radically moved away from this, we can move
back to it. Who better than the president to restore this wholesome devotion. As the
president returns to the consistent application of the principles of the constitution, he
will also by doing so ensure fiscal responsibility and prosperity. Who is better suited with
his executive and veto powers to carry over the duty of self-restraint to the idea of
fiscal solvency than the president of the United States? When the president restraints government spending,
leaving room for the American people to enjoy the fruits of their labor, growth is inevitable.
As Senator Robert Taft wrote, “Liberty has been the key to our progress in the past and
is the key to our progress in the future. If we can preserve liberty in all its essentials
there is no limit to the future of the American people.” Now, whereas at home the president
must be cautious, dutiful, differential, abroad his character must change. Were he to ask
for a perimeter on how to act in relation to other states which no holder of the office
has needed to this point. Were that perimeter be written by the American people in either
1776 or 2010, you can be confident it will contain the following instructions. You do not bow to kings. The president of
the United States of America bows to no man. When in foreign lands you do not criticize
your own country. You do not argue the case against the United States but rather the case
for it. You do not apologize to the enemies of the United States of America. Should you
be confused, a country, a people, a region that harbors, shelters, supports or cheers
attacks upon our country are enemies of the United States and to repeat, you do not apologize to them.
Closely related to this and perhaps the least ambiguous of the president’s complex responsibility
is his duty as commander in chief of our military. In this regard there is a very simple rule,
unknown to some presidents regardless of party. If … It’s perhaps the biggest if any president
can face. Follow not just him but hundreds of thousands or millions of others, not just
for the rest of their lives but in cost of blood and souls be on life itself. If … It’s
an if that requires long and deep hard thought, tremendously hard labor at determining the
truth of things, a lifetime of education, a mind of a general, a wisdom of a statesman,
a heart of infantryman. If after careful determination, intense stress of soul and a deepest prayer,
if then you go to war and having gone to war by God, you go to war to win. You do not cast
away American lives or those of the innocent non-combatant enemy upon a theory of gambit
or a notion. If the politics of your own election or your party intrude on your decision for
even an instant, there’re no words for this. More common place but hardly less important
are other expectations of the president in this regard. He must not stint on the equipment
and the provisioning of our armed forces. If he airs, it must not be on the side of
scarcity but on the side of surplus. He must be the guardian of his troops, taking every
step to avoid even the loss of a single American life. The American soldier is as precious
as the closest of your kin because he is your kin and for his sake the president must in
effect say to the Congress and to the people, “I’m commander in chief, it is my sacred duty
to defend the United States and so I demand that you give our soldiers everything they
need to complete the mission and come home safe.” Of all the hardest choices that Congress may
have to make to achieve that end, which one of these things alone or in combination is
more terrible than the sacrifice of our children or the defeat of our nation? If in fulfilling
this duty the president waivers he will have betrayed his office. This is not a policy
it is probity
and it is not expedient artifact in my imagination. It is written on the blood-soaked ground of
Saratoga, York Town, Antietam, Cold Harbor, Guadalcanal, the Pointe du Hoc, the Chosin
Reservoir, Iraq and Afghanistan and a thousand other places in our history, in lessons repeated
over and over again. The presidency, a great and complex subject
upon which I’ve only touched has become symbolic of overreaching. There’re many truths that
we’ve been frightened to tell or face. If we run from them, they will catch us with
our backs turned and pull us down, better that we should not flee but rather stop and
look them in the eye. What might out forbearers say to us knowing what they knew? Having done
what they did? I have no doubt, they would tell us to channel our passions, speak the
truth and do what’s right, slowly and with resolution. To walk calmly, steadily and without
enemies or fear. To be like a rock in the tide, let the water tumble about us and be
firm and unashamed in our love of country and so we are. I see us like those in Philadelphia in 1776,
danger all around but a fresh chapter, ready to begin, uncorrupted, with great possibilities
and inexplicably perhaps miraculously the way clearing ahead. I have never doubted that
providence can appear in history like the sun emerging from behind the clouds if only
as a reward for adherence to first principles. As Churchill said, “He must indeed have a
blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here
below of which we have the honor to be faithful servants.” A long time ago, during the tortured
history of Rome in the 4th century AD, the Emperor Constantius, son of the Emperor Constantine
was faced by an ultimatum backed by what appeared to be a military force impossible to resist.
Failure and defeat seemed certain but in the morning when his answer was due, he said to
his assembled troops, “Last night, after I retired to rest a shade of the great Constantine
rose before my eyes and his well-known voice forbid me to despair of the republic.” We too have the voices of shades who emerge
from the past. We too have what Lincoln in his first inaugural called the mystic codes
of memory stretching from every patriot grave that bind us to the greats and the humble,
the known and the unknown. If I hear them clearly, what they say is although we may
have strayed, we have not strayed too far to return. For we are everyone of us their
descendants, the seniors are still there lively waiting to flex. We can still astound the
world with justice, reason and strength. I know this is true but even if it were not
we could not in decency stand down if only for our death to history. The death we owe
to those who came before, who did great things, who suffered more that we suffer, who gave
more than we give and pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for
us who they did not know or as the old book says, “We drink from wells we did not dig
and are warmed by fires we did not build.” We must remember and pay our debt to history. Many generations are gone but I see them in
my mind’s eye and by the character and memory of their existence, they forbid us to despair
of the republic. I see them crossing the prairies in the sun and wind and see their faces looking
out from steel mills and coal mines and immigrant ships crawling into the harbors at dawn. I
see them at war, at work and at peace. I see them long departed, looking into the camera
with hopeful and sad eyes. I see them embracing their children who became us. They are our
family and our blood we cannot desert them, in spirit all of them come down to all of
us in a connection that out of love, we cannot betray. They’re silent now and forever but
from the eternal silence of every patriot grave there’s yet an echo that says, “It’s
not too late, keep faith with us, keep faith with God and do not, do not ever despair of
the republic.” Thank you and God bless you.

16 Comments

  • Joe Bradley

    I am heartened and humbled by the greatness of The Founders and the steadfast devotion to our Constitution by Patriots of our past and present.
    Absolutely Inspiring!!

  • Brian M

    I have some quibbles with some of the delivery, but this was a hell of a speech. I'm not jumping on the "Pence in 2012" bandwagon yet, but you certainly made me stand up and take notice. Well done sir!

  • braininahat

    Agreed — it was not the most powerfully delivered speech. But we've learned a hard lesson already, eloquence serves neither the just or the unjust and pales next to content, and the speech itself, what was said, it's content is forceful because it rings true. Obama pales as a president and as a human being when compared to presidents who have understood and had the character to abide by their oath. The call is to return to what we were, and away from Liberal moral and political corruption.

  • Yehudittx

    By 2012 the public is going to be seriously fed up with empty eloquence and charisma. Any charisma-impaired candidate is going to look sincere and trustworthy.

    My favorite candidate right now is equally uncharismatic Mitch Daniels, but I could vote for his fellow Indianian Sen Pence.

  • catexan

    I read this in the Imprimis and thought it was perfectly stated! The President and every member of Congress, The Senate, The Judiciary, The IRS and every other Federal, State, and Local Gov't position needs to hear, understand and agree to the "The Power of the Citizen" or step down. .

  • Anti Hypocrite

     
    The Indiana public employees' got screwed over with their retirement Funds now using the 401[2] that is a scam because of the republican party all ways selling out so their banker friends to get rich so they can get their campaign fund money from them but the people of Indiana in America that need understand we need to stop voting for the republican party they just like to steal from the public to profit for their selfs . They like to use the religious people to get votes to get in power and acting like they are all holier than thou and once they get in power they just want to robin steal any way possible and that is something Mike Pence is all about.

  • OMG

    I have but one question for Mr. Pence. Why, after a poll suggests 57%+ of Hoosiers want marijuana legalized, does he and his fellow Statesmen hold the state hijacked over this matter? 57% is a majority, and Hoosiers have spoken through the polls, They want marijuana legalized. But, how does he justify not giving them what they want?!? He says Hoosiers should speak out, yet I know this information in available to him, and he denies them their desires because he feels differently than the majority. You sir have hijacked this state from the people by stonewalling the issue. And, to be clear, it shouldn't matter the effects it has, the children, medicinal value, etc. What should matter is that 57% want it legal, and you simply ignore them. Where's your great Hoosier trust for this issue?!? (Ignored!)

  • Elizabeth Villalobos

    As I look at the audience I notice only Anglo audience ?? Where are the Asians,Hispanics , Native Americans, Afro Americans ?? I always look at things like this. This bothers me is hills dale a college for white people only??

  • Elizabeth Villalobos

    edstev69819 I have the right to my opinion as you do edstev69819. In my opinion any person no matter how much of an education one claims to have that starts off with name calling really show the true nature of your heart. Perhaps you need a class in tolerance. I did not say anything that was offensive I only stated that if one looks at the audience their is only one ethnic group. What is wrong with that? Did I deserve to be called an idiot for that?

  • Kai Ong

    Dear Elizabeth and others,
    My advise is to pay attention to the speech rather than to look around at the audience. The audience may change, white, brown black or yellow, BUT the speech and the essence of it, remains unchanged. May God be glorified though we be vile!

    Kai

  • Phil

    Who would have known then how events would move the way they did. VP Elect Mike Pence, what great times these are for conservatives!

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