Remarks by Vice President Pence at the Indiana Society of Washington, D.C.’s Tribute to a Hoosier Vice President and Second Lady
National Museum for Women in the Arts
7:46 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That is really great. Well, hello, Indiana. (Applause.) Thank you so much, Janet Holcomb — the First Lady of Indiana. I have to tell you, your grace and your service is such a credit to the people of the state of Indiana, and we are truly grateful to you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you for this great honor.
And can I ask people to go ahead and start on your salads? (Laughter.) Janet, can I break training here? Not that I’m feeling really chatty — (laughter) — but go ahead and dig in. I have just a couple of things I want to share.
But it is just a joy to be with all of you tonight. And let me tell you, I’ve made a lot of choices in my life, like many of the great men and women that lead great enterprises that are gathered here, but it’s always about your people. You’re only as good as your people.
And I would say, other than the choice that I made in the person that you heard speak before Janet Holcomb — I never made a better choice than when I asked Eric Holcomb to be lieutenant governor of the state of Indiana. We are so proud. (Applause.)
Janet, I know I speak for everyone here when I tell you how proud and grateful we are for our governor, for our first family. And it would come as no surprise that, even when surrounded by so many friends and colleagues here, at a fashionable event in Washington, D.C., that Governor Eric Holcomb would be right where he is supposed to be — with hurting families in Indiana. So thank you for that, and give him our regards and great respect. (Applause.)
And to Senator Young, to the members of the Indiana congressional delegation who are gathered here, to members of the President’s Cabinet, to my fellow Hoosiers — it is great to be back at the Indiana Society of Washington, D.C. Thank you all for being a part of tonight’s event. (Applause.)
Karen and I are really honored — we’re really honored to be with you tonight and to receive this recognition from so many friends of so many years. You know, we were thinking about it, and the last time that I had the chance to speak to the Indiana Society was on the eve of the Inauguration, last year.
And so I guess I can’t even begin to tell you how humbling it is for me to stand among my fellow Hoosiers at this Indiana Society, for the first time, as Vice President of the United States of America. And thank you for your support and your prayers that brought us to this point. (Applause.)
And to all of you, I just left the Oval Office on my way over this evening, and so I wanted to bring greetings tonight from a friend of mine, and a great friend of the state of Indiana, the 45th President of the United States of America — I bring greetings from President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
You know, I really came here tonight with my wonderful wife just to say thanks. Thanks to each and every one of you, and the pride that really animates the Indiana Society here in Washington, D.C.
As Jan Powell said — and how about a round of applause for Jan Powell and Stefan Bailey for doing such a wonderful job. (Applause.)
But Jan shared with you that Karen and I — from when we first arrived in Washington, D.C., we heard about Indiana Society stuff, and we just showed up because we were homesick. And the Indiana Society, believe it or not, for 113 years, has really been that place where Hoosiers in exile in Washington, D.C. have managed to gather together for a good dose of Hoosier friendship and common sense. And I want to thank you all for being a part of it tonight, and making it such a special evening.
I also want to acknowledge — I came in, and my wife, already — you wouldn’t be surprised, this isn’t her first time at this extraordinary place — but join me in thanking the National Museum for Women in the Arts for opening this spectacular facility to us this evening. (Applause.)
Now, in the last year, we’ve made incredible progress all across this country. It really is remarkable to think about it. We’ve reformed our tax code, we’ve rebuilt our military, and we’ve rolled back regulations. And confidence across Indiana and across America is booming. Companies are investing as never before, wages are on the rise. America is back, and I’m here to tell you that Hoosiers have played a leading role in supporting President Trump’s leadership and this Congress in moving our nation forward. (Applause.)
And I can see, even through the klieg lights here, that a few of them have arrived. And I want to ask them to stand, and I don’t care if you hold your applause, just — I’ll shout over you. (Laughter.)
Senator Todd Young is with us tonight. Congressman Jim Banks, please stand up, would you? Congresswoman Susan Brooks, Congressman Larry Bucshon, Congressman Trey Hollingsworth, Congressman Luke Messer, Congressman Pete Visclosky, and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski. Give them a big round of applause. These are great, great leaders who have been contributing to our national success. (Applause.)
Couldn’t be more proud. Couldn’t be more proud to serve with this team — many of whom I served with in the Congress of the United States. And I got to tell you, you know, I tell people I served in Congress for 12 years, but it seemed longer. (Laughter.) So give these members of Congress another round of applause. They make a lot of sacrifices to serve Indiana so well. (Applause.)
I also want to recognize — you know, it was mentioned before that there have been Hoosiers helping this administration. I couldn’t be more proud. And I’m going to ask them to stand. The new Secretary of Health and Human Services for the entire United States of America — Indiana’s own Mr. Secretary Alex Azar. Would you stand up? (Applause.) Great to have you here.
Alex served as the deputy secretary of HHS under the Bush administration, and we managed to talk him into doing another tour of duty, and we couldn’t be more grateful and more proud.
I also wanted to tell you that, back when Indiana was on the leading edge of Medicaid reform in the United States of America, when I was governor, my able assistant was a woman named Seema Verma. Now, she is the Administrator for Medicaid and Medicare for the United States of America. Would you give Seema Verma a big round of applause? Seema, thank you. We’re so proud of you. (Applause.) You’re transforming Medicaid. She’s really transforming Medicaid.
And want to commend Governor Holcomb, who got another waiver from our administration working with CMS and others. And we just want to commend you for the transformational change. Other states are following, but Indiana continues to be in the lead.
And lastly, I have to tell you, I’m proud of these Hoosiers serving on our Cabinet and serving our administration. But how proud is Indiana that Dr. Jerome Adams is the Surgeon General of the United States of America? (Applause.) Hey, Doc. You can give him a standing ovation if you want. He is just doing an amazing job, and making Indiana proud. (Applause.) Wow. What a guy.
We had those hurricanes roll through our states and territories this year, and the President made his way down there, and we made our way down there. But, boy, right there with us, shoulder to shoulder, and then in with the families in Puerto Rico and Texas and the Virgin Islands — Dr. Adams, I’m just so proud. I’m just so proud of the job that you’re doing, and I know the President is grateful.
I know there’s other folks that are here that I just wanted to give a shout out to. The Attorney General of the state of Indiana, Curtis Hill, is with us today, working very closely with our administration on law enforcement. (Applause.) Good to see you, my friend. (Applause.)
And I heard the president of Ivy Tech is in the house. I haven’t seen her yet. Sue Ellspermann, are you there? (Applause.) Awesome. Doing an awesome job. Sue knows President Trump is passionate about career and technical and vocational education. And, Sue, we’re grateful to be able to lean on you. And you’re doing a great job.
And also, there were a couple former congressmen that were mentioned — Ed Pease (inaudible). But I happened to notice Congressman Steve Buyer was not acknowledged, and he served Indiana for many, many years with great distinction. Steve, would you give us a wave? You’re great. (Applause.)
But thank you all — thank you all for being here. Thank you all for outbidding me on my wife’s paintings. (Laughter.) Which wasn’t hard, I mean — (laughter) — you know. But we’re awfully proud of her, and proud of the generosity you all showed. Twenty-five thousand dollars to Riley Art Therapy. That is really a great, great thing. (Applause.)
And the fundraising tonight for the restoration of Indiana Plaza — I guess we restore that place every time there’s a Hoosier Vice President. (Laughter.) Is that right, Stefan? All right, we’ll get the money raised, and I’ll be there for the restoration. How’s that, Stefan? We’ll get it done. (Applause.)
You know, tonight — it was great to be invited here tonight because tonight is really about two of my favorite topics: Indiana and Karen Pence. (Applause.)
I mean, oftentimes, on the first stop — I oftentimes tell people, the hardest part about this job is that we can’t do it from Indiana. (Laughter.) And that’s truth be told. That’s why that wonderful hospitality that Janet extended to us that Christmas just — I get a little emotional thinking about it. Walking into that cabin in Brown County at Christmas, and just feeling like we were just back home.
And it’s just like we feel tonight, to be honest with you. I mean, for heaven’s sakes, March Madness is just around the corner, all right. (Laughter.)
And I want to tell you, my wife did a beautiful job. We’ll have you over sometime at the Vice President’s residence. It’s a nice place. She raised private dollars, and fixed the place up really nice. And it’s really — for my part, I put in basketball goal. All right? And it says H-O-O-S-I-E-R-S, right on the pavement. (Applause.) It’s a little obnoxious. (Laughter.) I make people shoot baskets before we feed them. (Laughter.) That’s what we do, doggone it.
But you know, we love Indiana. Indiana really is special. I’ve traveled all around the country — I’m Vice President of the United States of America — but I think you all know where our hearts are, and where they’ll always be.
Our state is truly special. It’s truly special for the extraordinary contributions so well represented here. I mean, we feed the nation; we feed the world. Our manufactured goods are the marvel of American industry and exported all over the planet. We pioneered the life sciences. We have higher education that is the envy of the nation. We lead in education, innovation and reform, infrastructure.
I mean, the limestone from Indiana mines helped build this city. It’s amazing to think about it — the Pentagon, the Lincoln Memorial. And, in many ways, I often think of that as a metaphor. You know, the character and strength of Indiana has strengthened the foundations of this capital city for generations. And it’s still strengthening it, in the form of all the great leaders who we acknowledged here tonight.
In fact, I think of the contributions that Hoosiers have made. The President asked me to be chairman of the newly-reconstituted National Space Council. Because under President Donald Trump, America is going to lead in space once again, and Indiana is going to be in the forefront. (Applause.) We are.
It’s remarkable to think Purdue University has educated more astronauts than any other single institution. Gus Grissom, one of the great Mercury 7 astronauts from Mitchell, Indiana. We remember him. But I got to tell you, that inspiration of Indiana continues to inform that.
And I got to tell you, just a few weeks ago, I was in Japan. I was meeting, in a bilateral summit, with Prime Minister Abe. And — Karen will back me up on this — he stood up at a dinner just like this one. And I’d gotten up and spoken about the strong relationship that we had between the people of Japan and the people of the United States. And he got up, and all he talked about was how much the people of Japan and the businesses of Japan love Indiana. (Applause.) That’s what he said. I’m not kidding.
It’s amazing. I mean, Indiana was really in the forefront of putting out the welcome mat to Japanese companies, not more than a generation ago. Today, Indiana, last time I checked, is home to more than 250 different Japanese businesses. And the Prime Minister of Japan wanted me to be sure and know that he knew that.
And a number of those great companies are represented here today. Let’s give them a big round of applause. I know there’s some great manufacturers that support Hoosier jobs. (Applause.)
And, as Stefan mentioned a little bit earlier, Hoosiers have also made enormous contributions to our national security over the years. Hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers, alive today, wore the uniform of the United States of America — 75 Medals of Honor. Medals of Honor that are remembered in the National Memorial in our capital city. Seventy-five Medals of Honor went to Hoosiers in uniform.
Let’s give a round of applause to all those veterans who are with us here today, and all those who have served Indiana. (Applause.)
Once of the real joys of this job — Karen has done it in her great work with military spouses; I’ve done it as I’ve traveled around the country spending time with men and women in uniform. And they always seem to find Hoosiers when I get there. These congressmen know that, when you travel a little bit.
And I was over in Afghanistan. The President wanted me to be there before Christmas to give a word of encouragement and support to the extraordinary men and women who are serving in Afghanistan as we speak.
But as we arrived there — Karen, remember right after the speech as we were walking around? And we were shaking hands and taking some pictures. And there was a whole table, and everybody had a red sign that said, “I’m a Hoosier” around the table. (Laughter.) And it was great.
But there was one dissenter at the table. And I thought, “Well, maybe I may not be his cup of tea.” I, maybe — I didn’t know for sure. And I was shaking hands, and everybody was holding a picture, holding their sign. I said, “You don’t want to hold your sign?” And he just flipped it around, and it says, “I’m a boilermaker.” (Laughter and applause.) That’s Sue Ellspermann going crazy back there.
All right, we’re a bipartisan family. My son and daughter-in-law are both boilermakers, so we’re all good. We’re all good. (Laughter.)
But how about a round of applause for Purdue, since you all cheered Hoosiers so much? (Applause.) Anyway, we’re proud. So we’re so proud to be out there and to see our fellow Hoosiers.
My other favorite topic is the woman you already heard from. And, tonight, you had a great reminder of why my wife is truly a remarkable person. And I couldn’t be more proud of her; I really couldn’t. As a teacher; as an award-winning artist; as an at-home mom; as a First Lady, that’s now the Second Lady of the United States of America; soon the co-author of a book about a bunny rabbit — (laughter) — I just think Karen Pence is the most remarkable person I’ve ever met in my life. (Applause.)
We used to tell a story about a predecessor, Janet, of mine as governor. And the story was about the governor and the first lady driving down the road in the back of the governor’s limo. And they pulled into a gasoline station. And as the governor sat there, he noticed the gas station attendant, which — ask an older person next to you if you don’t know what that is. (Laughter.)
The gas station attendant came out — I used to work in a gas station, so I know — and walked out to the car and started filling it up. And the first lady, as the story goes, jumped out of the car, and ran around the car, threw her arms around this gas station attendant. There was a kiss on the cheek, there’s hugging, there’s laughing, and then another kiss on the cheek, a hello, a hug. And then she gets back in the car, and straightens her blouse and the car speeds away.
And the governor looked at her, Janet, and said, “And what was that — what was that all about?” The first lady looked at him and said, “Oh, I thought you recognized Dave. That was Dave. Dave, who I dated in high school for four years. You know — Dave? Dave. I almost — you know, I almost got married to Dave.” (Laughter.)
And the governor said, with not a small hint of pride. He said, “Oh, Dave.” And she said, “What do you mean by that?” (Laughter.) And he said, “Well, I mean, you know, I was just thinking, you know, what if you’d have married Dave?” And she said, without missing a beat, “If I’d married Dave, he’d be governor.” (Laughter and applause.) That is like my wife’s favorite joke. (Laughter.) I told it tonight in her honor.
As First Lady of Indiana, Karen impacted the lives of families and children in a lasting way. She traveled all across the state. Her charity raised funds and donated to worthy causes in all 92 counties, and she was the Bicentennial Ambassador, celebrating 200 years of great Indiana history.
But I have to think the National Museum for Women in the Arts is just the right place to be with Karen. In addition to her work supporting military spouses, she’s traveled all over the country encouraging families that serve in uniform.
You just heard about her passion — and it is a passion — to promote art therapy. It is truly extraordinary. I watched her about a decade ago when she first became aware of art therapy at a program here in Washington, D.C. And just in her usual style, she said, “How can we bring it home to Indiana? How can we bring it back?” And she helped found the art therapy program that you’re supporting tonight with your generous contributions at Riley Hospital for Children.
But when she became Second Lady of the United States, in addition to supporting our military, she took on this cause. And I have to tell you, she has worked at it with an energy that is hard to describe.
I’ve watched Karen meet with people in these art therapy programs suffering with the grip of drug addiction in New York City; meeting with veterans struggling with PTSD in Los Angeles, California; meeting with children in Dallas, just a few short days ago. And she’s making an incredible difference.
As we’ve traveled around the world for the administration, she’s also been an ambassador for art therapy and innovation in this area of therapeutic science, literally, all over the planet. And we know that she’s having an extraordinary impact in lives.
You know, I really — I love that old proverb that says, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised, and let her works praise her at the city gates.”
So I just wanted her to — (applause) — I just wanted to invite you just to — would you just join me in thanking Karen Pence for the work that she does for families, for our military. Indiana is proud, I’m proud, and we’re all proud of the job that she’s doing. (Applause.)
Well, let me just thank you again for tonight. This is a real joy. And I want to let you get to your main course, and I want to thank Stefan and Jan and everybody for your generosity in being here tonight. It’s easy to be relaxed around Hoosiers, and thanks for letting us let our hair down a little bit tonight and just be comfortable with everybody.
Thank you for the kindness that you’ve shown to me and Karen tonight. And I hope you just always all know that we — wherever life takes us in the years ahead, that we will always know that everything we are, and everything we will ever do is owing to the grace of God, to our wonderful family, and to the good people of Indiana.
And whatever the future holds, just know that we’ll always work our hearts out to make you proud. And when our time of service comes to an end, and we come back home again, just know that, in between now and then, our hearts will always be where the moon shines bright on the Wabash. (Laughter.)
Thank you all very much. God bless you. God bless Indiana. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
8:09 P.M. EST