Wisconsin College Cancels Vice President Commencement Address

Wisconsin Lutheran College Cites Unrest In Kenosha Following Police Shooting Of Jacob Blake

Vice President Mike Pence points at supporters
Vice President Mike Pence points at attendees as he exits Morning Star Dairy on Friday, July 17, 2020, in Onalaska, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

A private Milwaukee college has canceled plans to have Vice President Mike Pence deliver a commencement address on Saturday, citing unrest in nearby Kenosha where police shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, and two demonstrators were killed.

Wisconsin Lutheran College said Thursday that “after further review with careful consideration of the escalating events in Kenosha,” it decided to not have Pence deliver the speech.

A statement said the WLC Board of Regents and the college’s administration jointly decided to “present a different speaker instead of the Vice President of the United states” for Saturday’s ceremony. Reverend Mark Jeske of St. Marcus Lutheran Church in Milwaukee will deliver the commencement address instead.

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Pence was scheduled to be joined by former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Wisconsin Congressman Mark Neumann at the ceremony.

Last week, more than 100 students signed an online open letter renouncing the college’s decision to invite Pence to speak at the 2020 commencement, calling it a “blatantly inappropriate decision to invite the Vice President” to speak. Students also rejected the administration’s statement that the event was not meant to be viewed as a political event.

“However, the mere invitation of a Vice President of an incredibly divisive and controversial ticket to speak in a swing state months before an election is ignorant and deceptive,” said the letter. “Speaking to young adults months before an election is a political move and not one that WLC can decide is apolitical.”

Kenosha police shot Blake seven times in the back on Sunday after responding to a call about a domestic incident. Blake survived but is paralyzed from the waist down, and the shooting sparked several nights of protests. Authorities allege that 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Illinois, shot and killed two protesters on Tuesday night.