Remarks by Vice President Pence at the National Religious Broadcasters’ Annual Convention
Gaylord Opryland Conference Center
2:29 P.M. CST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Well, thank you all. Thank you for that warm welcome.
And, Dr. Jerry Johnson, thank you for that delayed introduction. (Laughter.) Would you give him another round of applause. (Applause.) I really appreciate his leadership and friendship. And I wasn’t quite backstage to hear his introduction, but I heard it was a good one. (Laughter.) And he knows me well enough to know the introduction I prefer is a little bit shorter: I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican — in that order. (Applause.)
And to Chairman Michael Little, to the board, to distinguished guests, and to all of you whose faith and ministries have inspired the hearts of millions, it is great to be back at the 75th Convention of the National Religious Broadcasters. It is an honor to be with “Christian Communicators Impacting the World.” (Applause.)
You know, as a former broadcaster, I’ve known and followed the remarkable work done by NRB and its members for decades in my years as a congressman, as a governor. And I just know in my heart that owing to the support of millions who cherish your ministries and your voices, that I stand before you today, in part, as Vice President of the United States of America. I’m humbled by your support, and grateful on behalf of myself and my family. Thank you. (Applause.)
And I bring greetings from a friend of mine, who knows a thing or two about broadcasting, a tireless champion for the God-given liberties of the American people, and a man who’s also grateful for the support and inspiration that you provide to millions. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
Good to be with you all. And I’m also honored to be joined today by a dear friend and a leader whose personal story, whose professional achievements and whose values have inspired countless Americans. Would you join me in welcoming Dr. Ben Carson back to the NRB Convention. (Applause.)
Ben, come on up here and say a word. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you. Well, thank you so much. And please be seated. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. This is a man who has so much courage and he speaks for so many, particularly those of us in the faith community. And I want to thank all the other elected officials, but everybody who is just a citizen, because we all have a sphere of influence. And by raising our voices, we really have an impact on what’s going on.
And NRB, I want to thank you for being a voice to so many, and giving them courage and encouragement. Because sometimes people think that when they lead a life of faith and values and principles, that they’re the only one. And you let them know that they’re not there alone. It makes all the difference in the world. (Applause.)
You know, when it comes to giving voice to the voiceless, I’m reminded of a conference that I attended in South Africa. And one of the speakers was the head of the ACLU. And, you know, he was talking about how they give voice to the voiceless, they speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, and for the helpless. And when he finished, I stood up to ask a question. I said, you know, I was seeing a woman, 33-weeks pregnant, she was on her way to Kansas to get an abortion. And her pediatrician had convinced her to come and see me. And I managed to talk her out of having the abortion. (Applause.) But she had the baby. The baby did have a neurological problem, as they had diagnosed. But it was fortunately something we were able to fix, and she loves that baby. And I said to him, “Will you speak for that baby? Will you speak for that voiceless baby, who at 33-weeks gestation was viable outside of the womb without support?” And he could not give an affirmative answer.
Well, later on that night, we were having dinner. He sat next to me. And I said, “You know, I have a lot of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit; they’re 25, 26, 27 weeks gestation in an incubator on full life support. What about them? Will you speak for them?” “Oh, absolutely. No problem.” I said, “But the one who is several weeks beyond that and in the safest place they can be, in their mother’s womb, you will not speak for that one?” And he said, “You know, I realize that doesn’t make any sense.” He says, “But I actually believe a woman has the right to kill that baby until the second it is born.” That’s what we’re dealing with.
But the fact of the matter is, we consent to that kind of thing when we’re silent. And we had to start being silent, because when you speak out, you’ll be demonized and you’ll be accused of everything under the sun. But that’s okay. Think about the nastiest person you know, the most hateful, lying person you know. I think of them often. (Laughter.) But you know what gets me through it? I just say, that used to be a cute little baby. (Laughter.) I wonder what happened to them.
Well, our job as people of faith is simply to do what’s right. And I always say, do what’s best and God will do the rest. Thank you all so much. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Ben. Before I begin, allow me to take a moment to pay a debt of gratitude and a debt of honor, on behalf of people all across this country, for the life and ministry of one of the greatest Americans of the past century: the Reverend Billy Graham. (Applause.)
Like so many of you, I was saddened to learn, last week, that Billy Graham had passed away. He was a man of towering faith, whose example, whose ministry for the Gospel, and his matchless voice inspired our nation and the world. As President Trump has said, in his words, “Billy’s unshakeable belief in the power of God’s word to transform hearts gave hope to all who listened to his simple message.” And it did.
And his message was simple and consistent throughout his life: that God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son. (Applause.)
Billy Graham preached his first sermon more than 80 years ago, and over the course of his life he addressed more than 77 million people in crusades in more than 185 countries.
Now, one of those crusades took place in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1999. And I’ll never forget that night. You know, I put my faith in Jesus Christ as a young man in college in 1978. But when our kids came along, Karen and I wanted our young family to hear Billy Graham. So we took our children to the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Michael was eight, Charlotte was six, and Audrey was four.
Seated high above the arena, we looked down and watched as Reverend Graham gave that stirring presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And when “Just As I Am” started to play, and thousands began to make their way down to the floor of the arena, our 8-year-old boy headed down, and soon, his 6-year-old sister followed right after him. And my wife, holding our youngest, turned to me and said, “Go after them.” (Laughter.)
And when I caught up with our kids, my son looked up at me with those big brown eyes, and said, “Dad, I want to go down.” And so we went. We prayed with a volunteer pastor on the floor that night.
Well, that little girl is now a writer working in Los Angeles. And that little boy is now a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. (Applause.) And I’ll always believe, in my heart of hearts, that that night, that walk, and that prayer, just like it did for millions of Americans, made a lasting difference in their lives.
Now, tomorrow, Billy Graham will lie in honor in the United States Capitol Rotunda, an honor only afforded to 33 Americans throughout our nation’s history. (Applause.)
And this Friday, President Trump and I will travel to North Carolina for his funeral. We’ll join his family. We’ll pay tribute to his life and legacy. But we’ll also join with the hearts of millions around this country and around the world, who will say, with my small family: Thank you, Billy Graham, and God bless you. (Applause.)
The debt this country owes Billy Graham can only be repaid by relentless imitation of his example, which I know is what all of you will continue to do. Because that’s what NRB members have been doing with distinction for 75 years.
Since 1944, the NRB has been a light unto the world. And today, your 1,100 members reach countless millions in this nation and across the globe through radio, television, the Internet, and every form of media available.
So let me, first off, take this opportunity just to thank you for all that you’ve done for faith and freedom over the years. The work and the witness of the NRB has borne fruit for generations that will blossom for generations to come. So please give yourselves a round of applause for the difference that you make in the lives of the American people. (Applause.)
But I’m not just here to thank you. I’m also here to tell you that, because of your support, and the support of millions who cherish your voices, the past year has been a year of action. It’s been a year of remarkable results. And from the outset of this administration, with the leadership of President Trump, it’s been a year of promises made and promises kept. (Applause.)
President Trump promised to rebuild our military and restore the arsenal of democracy and in a few weeks he’ll sign the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan. (Applause.)
He promised to appoint strong conservatives to the federal courts at every level and President Trump appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court — (applause) — and he set a record for the most circuit court judges appointed in a single year of any administration. (Applause.)
He promised to unleash the American economy, and we’ve rolled back the heavy hand of government. This President has actually signed 22 regulations to be repealed for every new regulation that’s been added to the books. (Applause.)
And finally, President Trump promised to cut taxes across the board for working families and job creators. And just over two months ago, this President signed the signed the largest tax cuts and tax reform in American history. (Applause.) That’s promises made, promises kept.
And on the world stage, we’ve also been restoring American leadership. Under President Trump, America once again stands without apology as the leader of the free world. (Applause.) Our allies are contributing more. Our allies are contributing more to our common defense than ever before.
And for decades, after one President after another promised to move the United States Embassy to the capital of our most cherished ally, President Donald Trump made history on December 6th — (applause) — when the United States of America recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. (Applause.)
So we’ve stood with our allies and we’ve stood up to our enemies. Nowhere is that more true than in the fight against radical Islamic terror. Under President Trump’s leadership we’ve taken the fight to the terrorists, on our terms, on their soil.
And thanks to the courage of our armed forces, and the leadership of this Commander-in-Chief, ISIS is on the run, their caliphate is crumbling, and we will not rest or relent until ISIS is destroyed at its source — (applause) — so it can no longer threaten our people, our allies, or our way of life. (Applause.)
We’ve put the leading state sponsor of terror on notice as well. And the United States has made it clear: We will no longer tolerate Iran’s destabilizing activities across the region. And the United States of America will no longer certify the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. (Applause.)
And in the wake of provocations and threats against the United States and our allies, we’ve made it clear when it comes to North Korea: The era of strategic patience is over. (Applause.) And I promise you, the United States of America will continue to stand strong with our allies until North Korea stops threatening our homeland, our allies, and once and for all, abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions. (Applause.) I promise you.
So in this White House, it’s about strength and growth for our nation and our people and it’s working. As I stand before you today, America is more secure, and our economy is booming.
Since Election Day 2016, businesses large and small have created more than 2.5 million new jobs. (Applause.) Unemployment hasn’t been this low in 17 years, and there are more Americans working today than ever before in American history. (Applause.)
Under President Donald Trump, strength is back, jobs are coming back. In a word: America is back. (Applause.) And this administration has also stood strong for the causes that most animate many of you in this room.
I couldn’t be more proud to serve as Vice President to a President who stands without apology for the sanctity of human life. (Applause.) From the first week of our administration, we reinstated the Mexico City Policy, preventing taxpayer dollars from funding organizations that promote and perform abortions around the world.
And I was honored. I was honored to cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate and have the President sign a bill that empowers all 50 states to defund Planned Parenthood. (Applause.)
Just over one month ago, President Trump became the first President to address the March for Life from the Rose Garden at the White House. (Applause.) And as the President said on that day, our administration, in his words, will “always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence… the right to life.” (Applause.)
In the days ahead, we’ll continue to strive until we restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law. And we’ll also continue to work to defend the fundamental freedoms of speech and religion.
The First Amendment of the Constitution provides that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” And let me assure everyone here: In this White House, we will always support the unalienable right of the American people to speak out and live out their convictions in the public square. (Applause.)
Last year, on the National Day of Prayer, President Trump declared, in his words, that the “federal government will never, ever penalize any person for their protected religious beliefs.” And he directed the Department of Justice to develop new protections for Americans of faith.
And we’ll continue — we’ll continue to free up the pulpits of this country by repealing the Johnson Amendment, because freedom shouldn’t stop at the doors of our churches, synagogues, or places of worship. (Applause.)
And on the world stage, President Trump has made promoting religious freedom a foreign policy priority of this administration. (Applause.)
Earlier this month, it was my privilege, actually, to cast not one, but two, tie-breaking votes to confirm our new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Governor Sam Brownback. (Applause.)
As this gathering knows all too well, the freedom of religion is under assault across the wider world. In the maelstrom of the Middle East, the adherents of too many faith traditions have either fled to save their lives, or live in mortal peril as we speak.
The menace of radical Islamic terror has subjugated and enslaved Yazidis, Druze, Muslims. But the terrorists harbor a special hatred for the followers of Christ. And Christianity now faces nothing short of an exodus from large areas of the Middle East.
As I said before, at this very hour, our armed forces are driving ISIS out of existence. But for the Christians and religious minorities in those ancient lands, victory in combat is only half the battle. Just as important is helping persecuted faith communities reclaim their lands, rebuild their lives, and replant their roots in their ancestral homes.
Just over one month ago, I traveled to the Middle East. And it was my great privilege to announce there that, at President Trump’s direction, the United States of America will no longer fund ineffective relief programs through the United Nations. And for the first time, we are providing direct support to Christian and religious minorities to rebuild their homes and their communities and their lives. (Applause.) In fact, we’ve already committed more than $110 million to that end.
You know, I stand before you today deeply humbled to address this gathering. But as I close, let me speak about what I know is on all of our hearts: the terrible shooting in Parkland, Florida, that claimed the lives of 17 innocent students and teachers, and injured 14 more. It came in the wake of other terrible attacks in Las Vegas. And it followed the worst attack on a place of worship in American history, in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
As a nation, we mourn with those who mourn, and grieve with those who grieve. And I know I speak on behalf of everyone here when I say that, today, and every day that follows, we will continue to earnestly pray for the victims of these events and their families.
As President Trump has said, “No child, no teacher, should ever be in danger in an American school.” And as the President told our nation’s governors yesterday at the White House, school safety is the top priority of this administration. (Applause.)
Working with federal and state leaders, we’ll take strong action to strengthen background checks, to give our schools and law enforcement the resources and flexibility to keep our kids safe, and we’ll work to give families the tools they need to deal with those struggling with dangerous mental illness.
We have much work to do, but with the President’s leadership, and support in the Congress, and strong partners in the state, I want to make you a promise: We will not rest until we make our schools safe again. (Applause.)
But as we work, let’s recognize that the evil that’s been afoot in our nation for too long cannot be fixed by legislation alone, although legislation we need, and we’ll have. Nor can it be fixed by law enforcement alone, though law enforcement we need, and we will support.
What we also need is more greatness of heart and gentleness of spirit. A greatness that makes us gentle enough to respect even those we might not like, for respect begets respect.
What we need is that shared sense of belonging, again, one to another, each to all. That timeless value that made us great before, and will make us great again.
What we need is to encourage more personal responsibility — to speak more, not less, about virtue, fidelity, and service to others. What we need is to strengthen the bonds of community and family and faith.
We believers don’t have the luxury of ceding our society’s cultural space. We must work to re-inspire society, to offer people renewed hope and new examples, and we need to revive the rich heritage of faith that can help repair the torn fabric of our society. Remembering, as our first Vice President, John Adams, said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” And so we must strengthen those foundations.
But today, to the men and women of the National Religious Broadcasters, I say: Your ministry, your message, your values are needed now more than ever before.
You live and work far from the halls of government, but every day, every hour, you speak straight to the heart of the American people. You shape our culture. You water the roots of this nation.
Through your broadcasts, and programs, and podcasts, and shows, you have the power to strengthen the character of this nation, to revive the vitality and virtue of the American people.
So today, I encourage you to do as you’ve always done now for 75 years and longer. As the Good Book says, “Preach the Gospel in season and out… Always be prepared to have a reason for the hope that you have, but do so with gentleness and respect.”
In a word, let’s have more of what Billy Graham did in his time, for his message transcended politics and so must yours. His message sprang from what has always been, for millions of Americans, the hope for the present and hope for the future. So let’s redeem the time by renewing the faith.
In these challenging times of too much division, of challenges at home and abroad, I encourage, as well, that you and your listeners also draw upon that wellspring of American renewal, to bow the head, and bend the knee, maybe a little more often. Pray for America. And pray with confidence that those ancient words are still as true today as they’ve ever been, that if His people — (applause) — who are called by His name, will humble themselves and pray, He’ll do like He’s always done throughout the long and storied history of this nation. He’ll hear from Heaven, and he’ll heal this land, this one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all.
So thank you. Thank you for the honor of addressing you, and I close with that confidence and faith, with the renewed commitment of all of you and the millions who cherish your broadcasts, with President Trump in the White House, and with God’s help, I just know we will make America safe again. We will make America prosperous again. And to borrow a phrase — (laughter) — we will make America great again.
Thank you, all, very much. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
2:59 P.M. CST