Jon Ponder speaks at the Republican National Convention

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I had always had this unshakeable sense that I know that I know, that life has to be more than what it was I’ve been living. I caught my very first felony conviction at 16 years old, and that type of behavior had led me into more and more arrests, getting in trouble until the age of 37 years old. I was arrested for a string of bank robberies and based off of my criminal history, there is a potential that a federal judge can sentence me up to 23 years in a maximum security United States, federal penitentiary. In that moment, I played a let’s make a deal with God. I asked God to climb into the robe of that judge, whether it’s 10 years or 50 years, I’m going to invest the rest of my life serving you. I stood before that federal judge. Judge Meehan took his glasses off, leaned back and said, “I don’t know why I’m going to do this,” but he said, “I’m not going to give you what you deserve.”

Then, he gave me a lesser sentence. As I laid on that stainless steel cell, shackled by my hands and my feet, I heard God utter into my spirit. “My son, I honored which you asked me to do.” He said, “Never forget the promise that you made to me.” Ever since that day I got up off that floor and my life went in 180 degree turn in the other direction.

Richard Beasly: When John got that sentence, I just shook my head. I said, “Wow. John, you are destined for bigger things than prison.”

Richard Beasly: My name is Richard Beasley. I was a FBI special agent for about 25 and a half years.

Jon Ponder: It was something about his demeanor, when he walked into that room, I had this feeling like everything’s going to be okay.

Richard Beasly: Then when he got out, he gave me a call and says, “Hey, Rich, let’s have lunch. I met him at a McDonald’s and he’s got a Bible with him. I’ve seen that before, where guys have used the Bible as a prop, it took me about 30 seconds to understand that this was not a prop with Jon. He was a changed guy from the man that I arrested, several years before.

Jon Ponder: When I saw the way that he treated me fairly, I saw the man behind the suit. I started thinking, “Man, if that worked for me with this law enforcement officer, how can I multiply that and get more law enforcement officers involved, so that we can impact on a larger scale? President Trump, he had made a bunch of promises. Let me just be transparent. When he first started talking about the things he was going to do, I’m sitting there going, wait a minute here. I mean, is he serious, because everything that he was saying that he wanted to do was the stuff that needs to be done. Before he walked out of that meeting that day, I promise I’ll make it out there to come speak at one of your graduations. I heard that they were phenomenal.

Jon Ponder: When he stood there in that graduation, and he went out of his way to shake the hand of every one of those 29 graduates, it set them on a whole another Vista of life, because they had the office of the President of the United States. The promises that he made, was promises that he kept.

Donald Trump: Two years ago, I was honored to tell John Ponder’s story of transformation in the Rose Garden, on the National Day of Prayer. Today, I’m thrilled to welcome him back to the White House. John’s life is a beautiful testament to the power of redemption. John grew up without his father. As he tells it, my mother was strong, but she wasn’t able to keep us out of the gangs and off of the streets, and they were violent streets. At the age of 38, he was arrested for bank robbery. While Jon was in prison, he began reading the Bible and listening to Christian radio. One day he heard Reverend Billy Graham on the radio proclaim, “Jesus wants to be Lord of your life”. On that day, Jon dedicated his life to Christ. He spent the rest of his time in prison, studying the Bible. When he was released, he heard a knock at his door.

Donald Trump: It was the officer who put him in jail, FBI Special Agent Richard Beasley, who said, “I want you to know that I’ve been praying for you.” Now, Richard and John are best friends and we are grateful that Richard is here with us today. In the last 10 years, since Jon was released, he has created one of the most successful reentry programs, Hope for Prisoners, in Las Vegas. I was led to speak there earlier this year. As Jon says, Hope for Prisoners is a movement that began as a dream ,in a tiny prison cell and is now making a difference in the lives of thousands, truly bringing a hope that there is an opportunity and a community that is waiting and willing to offer them a second chance.

Donald Trump: Jon, we honor your devotion to showing returning citizens that they are not forgotten. We believe that each person is made by God for a purpose. I will continue to give all Americans, including former inmates, the best chance to build a new life and achieve their own American dream and a great American dream it is. Now, I’d like to ask John and Richard to say a few words.

Jon Ponder: I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have the opportunity to speak here today. Not so long ago, my life was running from the police, fearing the police and avoiding the police. Not because of anything that the police had done to me personally, but due to the animosity I had allowed to grow inside of me, making me believe that they were my enemy. But today, praise God, I am filled with hope, a proud American citizen who has been given a second chance. My transformation began in a prison cell where I’ve found myself a three-time convicted felon, facing yet another sentence. I gave my life to Jesus and made him a promise that I would spend the rest of my days helping the others like me. My first help and support came from the unlikeliest of places, the FBI agent who arrested me, Richard Beasley. He is now a dear friend and has been a source of encouragement to me throughout my entire journey.

Jon Ponder: I am grateful for the men and women of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, who volunteer their time to people who return into our local community after incarceration. These are the real-life heroes who put their lives on the line every day, armed with the promise that they made to protect and to serve, have made a tremendous impact in the lives of men and women we integrating back into our society. My hope for America is that formerly incarcerated people will be afforded the opportunity to take advantage of the fact that we live in a nation of second chances. My hope for America is that law enforcement and people in the communities across our country can come together and realize that as Americans, we have more in common than we have differences. My hope for our great nation is to continue on this path we are on of being the most prosperous country in the world.

Richard Beasly: I’m so proud of John with his life’s around and for all the lives that he’s helped to change. It may be hard to believe that as a retired FBI agent, one of my best friends is a person that arrested for bank robbery. When I met John 15 years ago, he was angry, scared, frustrated, and anxious about his future. On the drive to prison. I stopped at a convenience store and buy Jon a coffee and a donut. After he was sentenced, Jon sent me a neck tie and a note, thanking me for treating him like a gentlemen. Five years later, when he got out of prison, Jon called me and wanted to meet for lunch. He was a different man. He talked about starting a reentry program for men and women coming out of prison. Over time, Jon earned the trust and respect of the law enforcement community, many of whom volunteer in Jon’s Hope for Prisoners Program.

Richard Beasly: I’m grateful for President Trump’s commitment to criminal justice reform. On February 20th of this year, he was the guest speaker at the Hope For Prisoners graduation. He stayed much longer than scheduled to hand out diplomas to the 29 men and women who graduated that day. What a sight. The most important man in the free world, shaking hands and pledging his administration support to ex-offenders. Their families were there. The community was there. What a great second chance. I also appreciate President Trump’s support for law enforcement. I always felt like I had strong support as an FBI agent, but there’s nothing worse than knowing you’re being second-guessed when you’re doing your job. In certain parts of our country right now, law enforcement doesn’t feel like they have the support from their local leaders. They’re being painted with a broad brush, unfairly, with calls for de-funding.

Richard Beasly: But, as President Trump knows, the overwhelming percentage of law enforcement officers are good, smart people who are doing their jobs very well and they can change the world, working with people like Jon. Thank you.

Donald Trump: Now, I’d like to invite Jon’s wife, Jamie, to join us as I grant Jon, I’m not sure you know this, a full pardon. I don’t know if you know that Jamie. Come on over here. It’s just an honor. You have done incredible work.

Jon Ponder: Thank you, sir.

Donald Trump: All of Las Vegas and all of Nevada and all of every place in this country is very proud of you the job you’ve done, bringing people back. You’re right. I was supposed to be there for five minutes. I stayed for an hour and a half-

Jamie Ponder: He did.

Donald Trump: Because it was so interesting to me. Congratulations-

Jamie Ponder: Thank you.

Donald Trump: … to both of you, sir.

Jamie Ponder: Thank you.

Donald Trump: Richard, thank you very much for the job you do.

Richard Blakey: Thank you, Mr. President.

Donald Trump: Fantastic.

Richard Blakey: Thank you.

Donald Trump: Okay. I think I ‘ll give it to Jamie. What do you think?

Trump pardons former felon, Jon Ponder

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