The connection between the men who will be sworn in as president and vice president of the United States on Friday goes beyond their deep desire to help the country. It is rooted in familial examples of achieving dreams.
Vice president-elect Mike Pence said since he has come to know President-elect Donald Trump, who selected the Columbus native — then governor of Indiana — as his running mate six months ago, they have become good friends. That’s despite different personalities and backgrounds shaped by their own individual life experiences.
“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,” Pence said Friday in an exclusive interview with The Republic.
“What animates our president-elect more than anything else is a belief in the boundless potential of every American to live the American dream,” Pence said. “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.”
Both had a grandfather who immigrated to the United States, and both saw their fathers succeed as self-made businessmen, Pence said.
Trump’s late father, Fred Trump, was a real estate developer. The vice president-elect’s late father, Ed, worked for Kiel Bros. Oil Co. most of his career in Columbus.
Among everyone he has known in life, Pence said his father had the greatest influence on him, serving as a role model by setting positive examples as a Korean War veteran, successful small businessman and a man devoted to his family and church.
The fathers of Trump and Pence also taught their sons another important lesson, the vice president-elect said.
“Both of us were raised to believe that to whom much is given, much will be required,” Pence said.
That motivated Pence to follow a calling to public service, and for Trump to pursue a business career focused on real estate and construction, before running for president, the vice president-elect said.
Their paths intersected in mid-July when Trump selected Pence as his running mate.
Pence said it was an honor to be chosen by Trump to run on the Republican Party’s presidential ticket.
The role he’s about to begin is humbling and a privilege — and one he approaches seriously, Pence said.
Trump called on Pence because of his 12 years of experience on Capitol Hill as a U.S. congressman, four years of executive experience leading the Hoosier state and personal bonds that were formed while serving in those roles, the vice president-elect said.
“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,” Pence said.
During the Trump-Pence administration’s first 100 days, the vice president-elect said the focus will be on:
Repealing and replacing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (commonly known as Obamacare)
Sending a Supreme Court nomination to the U.S. Senate
Rolling back presidential executive orders considered by members of his party to be unconstitutional
Scaling back regulations the Republican leaders consider stifling of economic and job growth
Cutting taxes for working families, small businesses and family farms
That work will officially begin after Inauguration Day.
As Friday quickly approaches, Pence said he is grateful he has a family supportive of his public service, and for the positive influences from his hometown.
He credited his mother, Nancy Pence Fritsch, as being an equally important role model as his father. She held the family together after Ed Pence died in 1988 and in her 60s went to college and earned a degree, the vice president-elect said.
She influenced Pence in another way, too.
“I probably got from my mom a passion for public policy and civic involvement. She’s someone who just has boundless energy,” he said.
While Pence’s parents and hometown influenced his life and political career, his inspiration for public service was President John F. Kennedy.
Pence’s family — Irish-Catholic like the late president’s — had two pictures on the top of their television: the pope and Kennedy.
One of Pence’s earliest memories was President Kennedy’s funeral, said Pence, who was about 4 1/2 at the time.
“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,” he said.
Pence said Kennedy’s heritage and his political ascension made him dream big as a boy.
“I thought, so maybe I could someday try do what he did. I could serve in our nation’s capital,” Pence said.
That dream will be realized Friday. It’s a journey that started in the Everroad Park West subdivision in Columbus, a city where his father ran gas stations.
“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,” Pence said.
“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,” he said.
That’s a belief his maternal grandfather — Richard Michael Cawley, who Michael Richard Pence is named after — held based on his experience of immigrating to the U.S. from Ireland, which he did through Ellis Island.
Decades later, Pence concluded, “My grandfather was right.”
Who: Mike Pence
What: Vice president-elect of the United States
Hometown: Knew three homes while growing up in the city: on 31st Street, on the northeast side; and later Hunter Place and Woodside Drive, both on the north side.
High school: Columbus North, Class of 1977
College: Hanover College, Class of 1981; Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law, Class of 1986
— Lost 1988 and 1990 elections for Congress
— Won election to Congress 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010
— Elected Indiana’s 50th governor in 2012
— Elected the 48th vice president of the United States in 2016
Family: Wife, Karen; children, Michael, Audrey, Charlotte
Parents: Ed Pence (deceased) and Nancy Pence Fritsch; stepfather, Basil Fritsch
Siblings: Greg, Ed, Tom, Annie, Mary
“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.”
— Vice President-elect Mike Pence
“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.”
— Vice President-elect Mike Pence on his relationship with President-elect Donald Trump