Columbus native Mike Pence, who recently completed his term as Indiana’s 50th governor, will be sworn in as vice president of the United States on Friday during the presidential inauguration ceremonies in Washington, D.C.
- More on Mike Pence’s road to the White House: Click here for stories and photo galleries from his days as a youth in Columbus, Indiana.
President-elect Donald Trump tabbed the 1977 Columbus North High School graduate as his running mate during the summer of 2016, and in November they defeated the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.
Pence was in Indianapolis on Jan. 13 for a fundraiser for the Trump administration’s transition efforts, and made time for an exclusive interview with The Republic’s Kirk Johannesen.
The interview touched on Pence’s political journey, Donald Trump, his role as vice president, the administration’s agenda, influences in Pence’s life and the inauguration. Here are the vice president-elect’s answers.
Q: You know when you think about the progression of your political career to now becoming vice president of the United States, how do you describe that journey and the role you’re undertaking as vice president?
PENCE: Well the way, the way I describe it personally is it’s humbling and it’s a privilege. You know, for a guy that grew up on 31st Street and Everroad Park West and played on Haw Creek and dreamed some day of serving in Washington D.C., from my boyhood, to have the opportunity to have represented my hometown in our nation’s capital, and now to have the opportunity to serve the entire nation as vice president is … it’s just deeply humbling.
But I count it as a privilege and one that we approach with great seriousness. I really couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity that we have with this new president to really turn this country around and get the economy moving again and have America standing tall again, home and abroad, to make America great again.
Q: It’s clear that you and President-elect Donald Trump have slightly different personalities. But what are, what are areas that you have in common that maybe the world doesn’t know? What are common areas?
PENCE: Well, we’ve — it’s, it’s an honor to serve, to have run with the president-elect and to have the opportunity to serve with him, but I’ve also become very fond of him (chuckles). We’ve become good friends.
I joked at our National Convention that you know, our party was nominating a candidate for president who was charismatic, larger than life, memorable, so they wanted to balance the ticket.
And, we’re different men, different life experiences. But I’ve always been struck by our common heritage. His grandfather immigrated to this country just like my grandfather. His dad was a self-made businessman, who built up a business with his two hands. And my dad followed his dreams to Columbus, Indiana, helped build a small business in that town. My late father used to say that they started out without two nickles to rub together and lived in that little house in Everroad Park West.
But both of us were raised to believe that to whom much is given, much will be required. And so for the president-elect that meant that what — he describes himself this way, the kid from Queens would go to Manhattan Island and build the big buildings.
For me it was a calling to public service. I often tell people other than a whole lot of zeros, he and I have a lot in common, and that is a belief in the American dream because we both have lived it. I think it’s what animates our president-elect more than anything else, is a belief in the boundless potential of every American to live the American dream. And, I think it comes from the fact that we both grew up in it, and both saw it. And in our own ways, we both lived it.
Q: What are the expectations and roles that President-elect Trump has set for you as vice president?
PENCE: Well you know, I think that there’s only one person that defines the role of vice president of the United States. And, you know, we come in to this administration with a servant’s heart, really prepared to serve and to support the president’s agenda and his objectives in every way that he believes is appropriate.
But I do think that part of the reason why he asked me to run with him and gave me the opportunity to serve with him was informed by my 12 years of experience on Capitol Hill and my years as governor of the State of Indiana. I think the practical experience and the relationships that I developed over the last 16 years, the president-elect sees it as an asset to moving his agenda and moving the country forward.
And so, I was honored when he asked me to chair the transition effort, and, you know, the fact that I’d gone through my own transition as governor of Indiana and had been informed by that experience, I think was an asset.
But I think the relationships that we developed on Capitol Hill are the reason why he’s asked me to be a part of the team that’s working to move our agenda forward in the House and in the Senate. But it’s a supporting role, and I relish the opportunity to take those relationships I’ve developed, the experiences I’ve developed, to carry the president’s agenda to our nation’s capital, to leaders there, but also to leaders in state capitals around America.
Q: What are three things on the administration’s agenda that you’d like to see accomplished within the first 100 days?
PENCE: Well, the president-elect has set a very aggressive agenda, and I think that repealing and replacing Obamacare with the kind of health care reform that’ll lower the cost of health insurance without growing the size of government will be job one.
We’ll also be — the president-elect will be sending a nominee to the Supreme Court for confirmation to the United States Senate. He (last) week said that he would likely have a decision and an announcement by the end of January and that’ll obviously take a great deal of energy. It’s enormously important in the life of the Court and the life of the nation.
We’re working from Day 1, which will be (Monday), the first full business day of the administration, to begin to roll back the unconstitutional executive orders and an avalanche of regulations that have been stifling growth and jobs in Indiana and across the economy. There will be a focus on infrastructure. The American people had elected a builder to be President of the United States. We’re going to work with members of Congress to move forward legislation to fund our infrastructure more effectively in the country.
And then by the springtime, you’ll see us moving an effort to cut taxes for working families, small businesses and family farms to reform our business taxes in this country so that American businesses can compete more effectively with businesses around the world. But also, we’ve got — we’ll be passing tax relief for small business owners and working families across the country.
So, the president said his three-part agenda is jobs, jobs, jobs. And whether it’s being repealing or replacing Obamacare, rolling back excessive regulations, making the kind of investments that’ll support infrastructure, or reducing taxes and reforming business taxes across the country. That’s just a sampling of the things that we’re working on right now.
Q: Who has influenced you the most in your life, both family and non-family members? And how has Columbus shaped you?
PENCE: Well, everything I am, everything I’ll ever be, I owe to my family, to God’s grace and to the people of Indiana, and Columbus will always be home.
The person who had the greatest influence in my life was my dad, who was a wonderful small businessman, devoted to his family, devoted to the local church. He was a combat veteran from Korea, and he was a great father. It’s hard for me to believe sometimes that my three kids never met my dad. Because one of the things — one of the real blessings to me is that while my dad left this Earth when I was in my 20s, he’s just as much a part of, of my life now than he was then, in terms of I often think of my dad. I think of what my dad might do in a certain situation. And so he continues to be, you know, my hero, my role model.
But I’ll also tell you that to no less extent my mom, you know, who was the daughter of Irish immigrants. I probably got from my mom a passion for public policy and and civic involvement. She’s someone who just has boundless energy. I think she’s about 84 years young right now. You know her. To see the way that she held our family together after my dad passed away, and then went to college after my youngest sister went off to school on her own, and mom went and got a college degree in her 60s is just incredibly inspiring. So, I would just say my folks.
But, just growing up in Columbus, which is such a special place, you know. It’s, you know, a small town with a Fortune 500 company’s headquarters, the extraordinary modern architecture. The experiences that I’ve had growing up in that very unique hometown has shaped me and always will shape me.
Q: With the inauguration drawing near, what emotions are you feeling?
PENCE: I just have a heart filled with gratitude for a wonderful family. My wife, Karen, is the love of my life, and she campaigned with me virtually every day of 130-some odd days of the campaign trail, as did our daughter, Charlotte, traveled all over the country with us. But my son, who just got married to his college sweetheart, and our youngest daughter — just am grateful for a family that has supported me in my calling to public service.
I’m just — I’m truly grateful for the opportunities the people of Columbus and the people of Indiana have given me to serve.
And I just — I approach this process with no small amount of emotion, but with a great deal of seriousness. I’m going to bring my best efforts and do my very best every day to support our new president’s agenda and to hopefully play some small role in making America great again.
Q: Will you have any personal or special elements part of your swearing-in, like a family Bible, and is there anything you’re going to be thinking about as that happens?
PENCE: I do. I am going to be using Ronald Reagan’s Bible. (Which is not public. You could certainly break that, if you want.) But I’m also going to be using one of our personal Bibles from home; it’ll be different than the one I used when I was inaugurated as governor.
Q: So will they be on top of each other?
PENCE: They will, and they’ll be opened.
Q: To certain passages?
PENCE: Yeah, that’s the tradition.
And then I’ve asked Justice Clarence Thomas to administer the Oath of Office, which I’m incredibly honored that he accepted as he’s in his 25th year on the Supreme Court and has developed an extraordinary judicial record.
You know, I just think to be in that place, to be surrounded as I will and for my brief moment in the inauguration ceremony by my wife and by my children and my daughter-in-law, with family looking on from behind us in the platform and many Hoosiers coming to be out in the crowds, I expect — it’s again, it will be very, very humbling.
I just, you know, growing up I used to … one of my heroes growing up was President John F. Kennedy. And I actually have a memory box from when I was a little where I saved articles about President Kennedy. He was a real hero. I think I would always tell school kids that, you know, they’d say, “When did you get interested in politics?” I said, “Just very young.” Maybe it was because President Kennedy was the first Irish-Catholic president.”
Q: Similar background, do you suppose?
PENCE: So, we had a picture of the pope and President Kennedy on top of the television.
One of my earliest memories was President Kennedy’s funeral. I actually remember sitting on the floor in the living room looking at our black-and-white television and watching the caisson roll by and hearing the clip-clop of the horses. It’s actually one of my earliest memories.
But I always tell people, you know, his grandfather was born in Ireland and he was Irish-Catholic, and I thought, so maybe I could someday try do what he did. I could serve in our nation’s capital. He was a congressman and a senator and he would go on to be president. I had that idea as a little boy, and I used to joke to people but nobody told me that his father was ambassador to England and that he was a war hero, and he was, you know.
But the truth is, I was right. I mean, growing up in a, a little family that ran gas stations in Columbus, Indiana. That this grandson of an Irish immigrant, after whom I was named, Richard Michael Cawley is my grandfather. I was right that — and I always tell kids that, you know, if my small life represents anything is that if you work hard, you study hard, and you never give up on your dreams and listen to people that care about, you can live those dreams. And for me to be up on the platform standing with my right hand in the air in the presence of my family and our new president, it just tells me this is a great country. My grandfather was right.