Vice President Mike Pence is no longer invited to deliver a commencement address to the graduates of Wisconsin Lutheran College amid ongoing unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by police.
Pence had been slated to give the address Saturday to the Christian college in Milwaukee, less than an hour northeast of Kenosha, which his office announced in a press release Monday. The college cited “escalating events” as the reason a different speaker would be presented.
“After further review with careful consideration of the escalating events in Kenosha, the WLC Board of Regents and the College’s Administration have jointly decided to present a different speaker instead of the Vice President of the United States, Michael R. Pence, at the Saturday, August 29, 2020, commencement,” the college said in a statement Thursday.
A spokesman for Pence confirmed he would no longer be speaking.
“Vice President Pence understands and supports Wisconsin Lutheran College’s decision to prioritize the safety and well-being of their students, and wishes the students well as they celebrate the accomplishment of graduating from college and as they embark on their next journey,” Pence’s press secretary Devin O’Malley told CNN in a statement.
A local pastor, Rev. Mark Jeske of St. Marcus Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, will deliver the speech instead.
The decision comes amid some vocal opposition from alumni and current students who penned a letter earlier this week, updated Wednesday night, renouncing Pence’s participation and claims from the college that the event was not political.
“We are concerned about the college’s blatantly inappropriate decision to invite the vice president to speak for this monumental event for the Class of 2020. Not only is the invitation disrespectful, but also the remarks provided by the college fail to recognize the reality of the decision,” the group wrote in an open letter.