George H.W. Bush Presidential Library
College Station, Texas
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Anne Compton, and thank you all for that very, very warm welcome. It is a privilege to be here tonight.
To Vice President Cheney, to Vice President Quayle, to Congressman Flores, to Doro Bush Koch and the Bush family, it is our honor to join you here at our very first visit to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, here on the campus of Texas A&M University. Thanks for making us so welcome. (Applause.)
And it’s a special joy to be here today with a Marine Corps mom, a champion for military families, and my wife of 33 years. Would you all join me in welcoming, once again, the Second Lady of the United States of America, Karen Pence? (Applause.)
I know you all are in for a very special evening. And I’m honored to be a part, as festivities begin today.
You know, six months ago, when I was approached by a very talented and creative filmmaker, he told me he was doing a documentary about the Office of the Vice President and he thought I might have something to contribute. (Laughter.) And I was, frankly, humbled by that. And I was grateful for the opportunity.
And having seen just a small sampling of his artistry and his previous work, I know this is going to be a very special, special documentary about the institution of the vice presidency and all 48 of us who have had the privilege to serve in it. So, would you join me in thanking and congratulating Jeffrey Roth for his remarkable contribution to the life of the nation? (Applause.)
You know, it’s the greatest honor of my life to serve as Vice President to President Donald Trump. When he asked me to be his running mate, I asked him about the job description. I was governor of Indiana at the time and I knew I was in a position, back in the Hoosier State, to be able to make a difference on issues that were important to the people of my state. And so we sat and we talked about it. And he — he told me at the time — our very first conversation — that he was looking for a Vice President who would be “active.” And let me tell you: President Trump kept that promise. (Laughter.)
Whether it be in advancing his agenda on Capitol Hill or across the country, or carrying our America First agenda across this hemisphere or the wider world, President Donald Trump has kept his promises to me, and he’s kept the promises he made to the American people to make American great again. (Applause.)
I couldn’t be more proud to be a small part of an administration that’s making our military stronger, our economy more vibrant, seen a record number of conservatives appointed to our federal courts at every level. And under President Trump’s leadership, as in times past, America is once again embracing our role as leader of the free world. And America is leading for freedom on the world stage once again. (Applause.)
And I know I speak for all my predecessors gathered here when I say that I’m grateful for the interest in this project and the interest shown in the Office of the Vice President. As my predecessors can attest, we don’t get a lot of attention.
Truthfully, when the country was founded, the vice presidency went to the runner-up in the Electoral College. In fact, in my office in the White House, I have historic portraits of four former Vice Presidents — including George Washington’s Vice President, John Adams, and John Adams’s Vice President, Thomas Jefferson.
You know, a casual study of history informs us of the tension that that caused in the Adams’s administration. But I often remind people that if things hadn’t changed, there would be a lot more tension in this administration. (Laughter.) Enough said. (Laughter.)
You know, I also have historic portraits of Calvin Coolidge and Teddy Roosevelt. I’m told that a guest at a dinner party reportedly bet that a friend that she could get Calvin Coolidge to say more than two words at the dinner. And he reportedly looked her in the eye and said, “You lose.” (Laughter.)
And Teddy Roosevelt was once described by a contemporary as “pure energy.” And I guess that must come out of New York City about every hundred years or so. (Laughter.)
You know, I’m often asked who I most identify with among my 47 predecessors. And I have to be honest with you, it was a really tough question the first time I got it.
Our 44th Vice President, Dan Quayle, is not only a dear friend and a fellow Hoosier, but I marveled, as people of our state did in my youth, when I saw him bring his — the experiences of a meteoric career in the House and the Senate, the energy of a new generation and conservative leadership in the presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush.
The nation is indebted to Vice President Dan Quayle and I will always be grateful for his example and his counsel and his friendship. (Applause.)
And our 46th Vice President, Vice President Dick Cheney, likewise brought the weight of his experience as a White House Chief of Staff, as a member of Congress, as a Secretary of Defense, to come alongside the presidency of George W. Bush.
Vice President Cheney stood by that President during one of the darkest hours in the history of this nation. And he was, in that moment — and remains to this day — one of the greatest champions of our national security and a strong national defense in American history. Thank you, Vice President Cheney, for your leadership and your example. (Applause.)
Thank you for — thank you for demonstrating your appreciation of these two extraordinary Americans who made immeasurable contributions to the United States. So you can see why it was a tough question — because I knew two Vice Presidents personally and I’d worked with them closely over the years.
But you know, the more I thought about the question, the more I thought that before any of the three of us ever served in this role, this library’s namesake had already set the gold standard for the modern vice presidency. And to be honest with you, I can probably most identify with Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush because he served as a sound counselor and a loyal adviser to an outsider who came to Washington, D.C. to shake things up. They did it then, just like we’re doing it now. (Applause.)
And while he was known as the “Quiet Man,” I think it’s impossible to look at all the Reagan administration accomplished without seeing, in the background, the steady hand and the experience of Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush.
I’m told Ronald Reagan had a plaque on his desk that said, “There’s no limit to what a man can accomplish in this world if he doesn’t care who gets the credit.” So I’m confident that President Reagan wouldn’t mind if I acknowledged tonight the extraordinary contributions of Vice President Bush to the life of the nation during that extraordinary time.
They accomplished so much in those eight years. They revived the American economy, they rebuilt the military, they too restored American leadership on the world stage, and they won the Cold War without firing a shot. (Applause.)
And through it all, George Bush always gave the credit to the President that he served. As he said in his 1988 Republican Convention address, and I quote, “Ronald Reagan asked for, and received, my candor. He never asked for, but he did receive, my loyalty.”
And even now, as I serve an outsider who has rebuilt our military, revived the American economy through tax cuts and regulatory reform, and strengthened our courts and renewed American leadership on the world’s stage, I’m truly inspired by Vice President Bush’s example: his character, his candor, and his loyalty during his season of service in this role.
You know, truthfully, the legacy of George Herbert Walker Bush is a lifetime of service. Those of you who cherish his memory, and those of you who generously contribute to this great institution’s efforts to preserve it for future generations know that story. But it’s remarkable to think he flew 58 combat missions in World War II, served as a congressman, an ambassador to the U.N., an envoy to China, a CIA Director, and went on to serve as Vice President and President of the United States.
But as I suspect this documentary will attest when it speaks of his time of service as Vice President, he also left America, during that season of his service, and the world, more peaceful, prosperous, and secure. And in every office he held, he showed a character and a humility that did his family proud and did our nation proud.
You know, four months ago, as our nation bid farewell to our 41st President, it was my great honor to speak at the state ceremony in the United States Capitol Rotunda. It was a deeply humbling experience. I told of the story of when I first met Vice President Bush in 1988. I was 29 years old, just getting started in politics. But then, as always in any other encounter I ever had with him, I was struck by his approachability. He spoke of mutual friends in Indiana, talked of his many warm memories there. He set me at ease. Dealt with me as a person. And I’ll never forget the moment.
For all that he’d accomplished in his life, in his family, as a nation, he was warm, he was engaging, he was without pretense. And I tried to speak of that in those words in the Capitol that day.
A few weeks after the service, I was humbled to receive a letter from a dear friend of President Bush’s, Secretary James A. Baker, and I’ll always cherish what he said. Writing favorably and encouragingly about my remarks, he said that I had, quote, in his words, “described the very essence of this fine man.” He went on to say, “Yes, he was a great leader and President, and it’s rewarding to see history remembering him as just that.” But he said, “Mike, you were spot on when you observed that there was much more to him,” that “There was… a kindness about [him] that was evident to everyone who ever met him.” That “his years in public service were characterized by kindness [and] modesty and patriotism.”
This nation owes an extraordinary debt for the life and service of Vice President and President George Herbert Walker Bush. And I owe him a debt as well for his kindness and inspiration and his example.
So thank you again for the honor of addressing you here tonight. And it’s hard to describe sometimes how deeply humbling it is for a small-town boy from southern Indiana to be serving as Vice President of the United States. To be serving — to be serving at such a time as this in the life of our nation. And it’s also humbling to be in the company of two of our nation’s most accomplished Vice Presidents, who I know you’ll be hearing from, shortly.
You know, it’s interesting, the first time I ever saw Air Force Two was in Muncie, Indiana, when Vice President Dan Quayle flew in to campaign for me in 1990. Today, when I landed here, my friend was at the base of the stairs. (Laughter.)
And the first time I was ever on Air Force Two was when Vice President Dick Cheney took me on a flight to my hometown and landed at a little airport in Columbus, Indiana.
I stand here today deeply humbled to be able to serve the nation in this role and to be able to address you. And also to be a part of this effort tonight to begin to think about this institution and the contributions — the often quiet contributions — that Vice Presidents have made throughout our history.
And I expect, when my two predecessors speak tonight, you’ll leave here today with a better understanding — not only of their time in office, but of the nature of the Vice Presidency. And I know it’s going to be a very special time. And it will make a contribution to public understanding of this office and its responsibilities.
But let me just take this opportunity just to say thank you. Thank you for the opportunity that me and my family have been given to serve our nation in this role.
You know, I’ve been asked oftentimes what I was thinking about during the moment that I had my right hand in the air, that you just saw in the video. And I remember very vividly, surrounded by my wife and children, reciting that Oath of Office, looking out at a sea of well-wishers that had come to see the Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. And for all the world, I couldn’t stop thinking about my grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley.
Richard Michael Cawley grew up in a small town in northwest Ireland, called Tubbercurry, in County Sligo. I actually visited his home shortly after he passed away. I saw the two-room house where he and his nine brothers and sisters grew up. And legend has it in our home that my grandfather told him that he had to go to America because there’s a future there. And he would be 20 years before he ever spoke to his mother again after leaving what he would always call, to his last day, “the Old Country.”
But my grandfather came here. He landed on Ellis Island. He went to Chicago. He drove a bus for 40 years. And as I was up on that platform, I couldn’t help but think about what Richard Michael Cawley was thinking looking down from glory, to see his namesake, Michael Richard Pence, taking the Oath of Office to be Vice President of the United States.
But two thoughts came to mind: Number one, I’m sure he was very surprised. (Laughter.) My grandfather knew me well and we were very close. But more seriously, I really believe with all my heart, looking down from glory, that my grandfather had to be thinking just one thought: That he was right. He was right to come. He was right to believe in America. That it’s a place where anybody could be anybody. And the grandson of an Irish immigrant could be raising their right hand to serve as the 48th Vice President of the United States. It’s a testament not to that grandson, but to a great nation.
So thank you for coming out tonight. It is the greatest honor of my life to serve as your Vice President at such a time as this. I’m grateful for the example of all of those who have gone before. And I’m grateful for the support and the prayers of all of you who continue to hold up the ideals that have always made this country great and are making America great again.
Thank you very much. God bless you. And have a great evening. (Applause.)