Alan Winquist | Contributor
The positive memories I have of Senator Richard Lugar who passed away this past weekend encouraged me to write these comments.
I wish to focus on two points - the ramifications of Vice President Mike Pence's close relationship with President Donald Trump, and the purpose of a college commencement.
Our nation is going through a severe division with the political and social chasm increasingly widened. A chief presidential role is to help bind the nation together. However, we are seeing Mr. Trump continually pandering to his "base," seemingly not caring about building bridges with the majority. Many Americans view serious flaws in this administration's policies such as the appalling treatment of common people running from life-threatening situations, the hostility toward our democratic allies in contrast to his positive remarks about authoritarian figures, and repeatedly denying any human involvement as a significant cause of the global climate changes.
The president continually vilifies both Republicans and Democrats who dare to question his authority and self-declared expertise. Many of these statements are based on racism, sexism and religious bigotry. He eviscerates the press, calling that sacred institution, "the enemy of the people."
The president has difficulty telling the truth. This administration has shown considerable moral weakness, all contrary to biblical teaching. The moral decline in this administration has been the focus of many commentators, notably the highly respected conservative David Brooks who is married to Anne Snyder, a Wheaton College alumnus.
We see Mr. Pence constantly at the president's side giving the impression that he fully agrees with Mr. Trump on all major issues and concurs with his behavior. I have not observed any indication he has made an effort to counsel Mr. Trump on his lies, his derogatory remarks and the corruption among many of his advisors. I have no reason to question the sincerity of the vice president's Christian beliefs, but I have serious doubts about the president's commitment. The vice president's passive attitude is not a good example for our graduates.
Secondly, a commencement is a special event when the focus should be on the seniors and their families. It is meant to be an uplifting time in which we honor their achievements and wish them well as they begin their journey into their bright future. Unfortunately, I fear having the vice president as the commencement speaker will focus the attention on him. After reading the remarks by the vice president at the Hillsdale College commencement a year ago, I am quite certain Mr. Pence will make some political statements, effusively praising the president since it is an election cycle. I fear this will result in deeper long lasting divisional scars among the Taylor community.
As a professor emeritus, I have a deep admiration for Taylor and I wish it well in the future. I have encouraged several alumni who have contacted me to be patient before making a drastic decision to cut off their relations with Taylor. I hope our university will maintain its traditional mooring by remaining above the political fray, be a welcoming community for all believers and a place that honors and encourages disparate viewpoints.
But I sense a direction to the right as illustrated by the rescinding of the invitation to former Democratic Senator Evan Bayh to deliver the commencement speech several years ago. Even though many Taylor leaders apparently have not viewed the forthcoming Pence visit as a turn to the right, it will be perceived that way by those who believe Taylor is not conservative enough and by those deeply disturbed by the idea of being connected with the bastions of political conservatism.