INDIANAPOLIS — Vice President Mike Pence returned exuberantly to the Statehouse Friday for a celebration of his four-year term as Indiana's 50th governor and the unveiling of his official portrait.
The image, painted by artist Mark Dillman, of Indianapolis, shows the white-haired Pence with a partial smile. He is half-seated on the governor's office desk wearing a blue suit with an open jacket, blue shirt and striped blue tie designed by his wife, Karen.
Indiana and United States flags fill much of the space behind him, while alongside him on the desk are law books that belonged to his late father, a photograph of his family and the open Bible that always held a place of prominence while he was working.
"It's deeply humbling for me to think that this image will be added to the historic collection here at the Statehouse," Pence said. "It is my great honor to join them (all the former governors) in this Pantheon of public service in the state of Indiana."
The Republican was at times during his 19-minute speech both casually humorous and unexpectedly emotional.
Pence drew huge laughs when he insisted, "I do have more than one tie," since the tie he was wearing identically matched the tie in his portrait.
But Pence also appeared to hold back tears as he said he was departing shortly for Washington, D.C., "to continue to stand by a president who is making America great again every single day.
"As I leave, it just blesses our hearts to think that this portrait will be hanging where our hearts will always be ... where the moon shines bright upon the Wabash," Pence said.
"And until we come back home again, I pray that God will continue to bless the great state of Indiana and all who go by the name Hoosier."
The former governor did not say much about his time in office or list all that he accomplished as Indiana's chief executive.
Instead, he repeatedly expressed gratitude to the people of Indiana for giving him the honor of serving as their governor and for the opportunities he had growing up in the state.
"We were all raised to believe that anybody could be anybody in this country. That if you work hard, pray harder, you look after your family, you grab your dreams — the sky is the limit," Pence said.
"Let me say that wherever we go in our lives, in our service for the next seven-and-half years as vice president of the United States or beyond, I want the people of Indiana to know that you're always in our hearts and the depth of our gratitude is inexpressible."
Gov. Eric Holcomb introduced the man he used to serve as lieutenant governor, but reminded the audience that his relationship with Pence goes back more than two decades to their shared experiences as students at Hanover College.
He said no matter where Pence goes he remains the servant-leader he's always been — "that same Mike that I met all those years ago."
State Sens. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, and Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, were among dozens of elected officials and dignitaries in attendance, including U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.; U.S. Reps. Luke Messer, R-Shelbyville, and Todd Rokita, R-Brownsburg; U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, the former state health commissioner; former Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann; and former Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
Charbonneau spoke briefly with Pence following what he described as an "absolutely fantastic" speech.
He said he was impressed Pence still remembered many of the health and environmental legislation they worked on together.
Former Lake Superior Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, who served Pence as director of the Department of Child Services and has remained in that post under Holcomb, said the "beautiful" portrait of her former boss "really captures the essence of Mike Pence."
"We miss him here in Indiana, and I hope he takes to Washington — and has taken to Washington in the short time he's been there — the valuable and heartfelt things he's done here in Indiana," Bonaventura said.
Pence's portrait will be installed Thursday in the governor's reception room alongside paintings of the seven most recent former governors.
The other gubernatorial portraits, which are maintained by the Indiana State Museum, are on display in meeting rooms and offices throughout the Statehouse.