Columbus native Gregory Pence never thought he would know the president of the United States and his children personally.
He also never thought he would be related to the vice president, know many of the cabinet members and have met the top people in the U.S. government.
But because his brother, Mike Pence, dreamt big — going from serving as Indiana’s governor to becoming vice president of the United States — Gregory has been afforded those opportunities.
On Saturday, he told the Sandy Creek Christian Academy Class of 2017 to dream big, too.
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“I would encourage you to dream as big as you possibly can. Don’t limit yourself,” he said, drawing applause from the crowd gathered in The Tabernacle in downtown Seymour.
Gregory said his brother maintaining that viewpoint allowed him to get where he is today.
“All along the way, people tried to keep my brother from being something — and frankly, I won’t discount my other four siblings, they’ve done pretty well, too — but he dreamt big and he achieved that, and he didn’t achieve it alone,” Gregory said. “Everyone in our family — the Pence family in Columbus, in southern Indiana and in Indiana — can take pride and credit that we have the sixth vice president of the United States from Indiana.”
Gregory told the 11 graduates to keep that in mind as they move forward in life.
“You as southern Indiana Hoosiers can do anything in the world with the Christian and academic education that you have received,” he said. “Nobody anywhere — in any state, city, town, county — has more than you because my family, my brother is proof that you can do it.”
Aaron Arrowood, headmaster of the school, said the idea of Gregory being this year’s commencement speaker was brought up by Gayle Skaggs after last year’s ceremony.
Skaggs and her late husband, Albert, had extensive business experiences and dealings with Gregory and his wife, Denise, and they all had become friends.
Arrowood quickly contacted Gregory, who agreed to do it if his schedule would allow.
A couple of months later, however, the Pence family was launched into the political arena when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump chose Mike Pence as his running mate.
Arrowood became concerned Gregory wouldn’t be able to speak at commencement, but he made it happen.
“He is a very, very busy man. He and his wife just returned to the country, but they have made the time to be here with us today, and I’m very, very thankful,” Arrowood said while introducing Gregory at commencement. “His acumen and his integrity are above reproach.”
In his address, Gregory also talked about how his parents made it a priority to teach him and his siblings to fear the Lord and to give them the best education they possibly could.
He told the graduates their parents had similar priorities because they chose to send them to Sandy Creek Christian Academy.
“That’s one of the reasons that all of you are a part of a state, an area just down the street, of a place that has produced what I believe is a phenomenal individual in my brother, who is now the vice president of the Untied States,” Gregory said, drawing applause. “I think that you have been given the tools to achieve whatever you want to achieve.”
Gregory left the graduates with a quote from Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
He then was asked to stay onstage to shake hands with each graduate as they came forward to receive their diploma.