Several hundred well-wishers and a high school band greeted Republican Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Thursday night when he triumphantly returned to Indiana for the first time since Tuesday’s election. Fire trucks sprayed streams of water in the air over Pence’s plane before it came to a rest as the marching band played “My Indiana Home.”
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“I have been blessed so many ways,” the Indiana governor and former U.S. congressman said after descending to the tarmac. “But I am deeply humbled … to take that lifetime of experience and serve as the vice president of the United States of America.”
He later added: “I’m just here to say thanks and give lots of hugs.”
The event comes two days after Donald Trump’s presidential victory and on the same day that Trump met President Barack Obama at the White House.
Pence’s election as the next vice president is a remarkable turn of fate. Just months ago he faced a sagging job approval rating and a difficult re-election as governor against the same Democrat he narrowly beat in 2012. His embrace of conservative social issues during his tenure proved to be divisive even in a state that has voted reliably Republican for more than a decade.
Pence spent part of Thursday in Washington, D.C., where he met with Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders.
But once he arrived home, he choked up, telling his supporters that no matter where his new duties take him, his heart will always remain in Indiana.
He also asked the well-wishers to support Trump and to pray that the deeply divided country can be reunited.
“I would ask each one of you to pray for us. Pray for us that we might serve with integrity,” Pence said. “I also ask you to pray for our country, to pray that we may find our way forward, that we may renew the American dream and that we might create new opportunities to improve the lives of the people of this nation and to heal the divisions.”
Pence has only held a handful of Indiana events since he was picked as Trump’s running mate in July and started making dozens of campaign stops for Trump across the country.
While much of his time in the coming weeks will be devoted to the transition of power in Washington, Pence’s gubernatorial spokeswoman Kara Brooks said Thursday that he will finish the remainder of this term, which ends Jan 9. That is 11 days before he and Trump begin their new jobs.