A couple of years ago, former Vice President Mike Pence says a good friend of his said he was curious how Pence managed to have a wonderful family while also maintaining a demanding political career. That conversation became the genesis for Pence’s new book, “Go Home for Dinner: Advice on How Faith Makes a Family and Family Makes a Life.”
The book, which Pence co-authored with his daughter, Charlotte Pence Bond, describes what life was like for the Pence children as they grew up, and how their father lived out his commitment to his family.
“I’ve never had to be motivated to work hard,” Pence said during an interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
“I am always motivated to try and make a difference in the world for the values that I believe in,” Pence says. “But as we recount in this book, I really do believe that for men and women in the busy lives that we lead today, you have to be intentional about putting your family and your faith first in your life.”
Pence and his daughter join the show to explain how they have kept faith, family, and career in the right order in their lives.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Mary Margaret Olohan: Former Vice President Mike Pence and Charlotte, we’re so grateful to have you here with us today. Thank you so much for joining us.
Charlotte Pence Bond: Thanks for having us on.
Mike Pence: Thank you, Mary Margaret. Great to be with you.
Olohan: So, we are here to talk about your new book, “Go Home for Dinner: Advice on How Faith Makes a Family and Family Makes a Life.” Former Vice President Mike Pence, we’d love to start with you. What motivated you to write this book?
Pence: A few years ago after we left office, it became public that I was going to be writing an autobiography and I had a conversation with someone who’s become a good friend of mine since that we recount in the opening pages of “Go Home for Dinner” where he said, “You know, Mike, I’m really looking forward to reading your autobiography because I’m interested in politics and government.” And he said, “But the book I really want to read is, how do you have a family like yours living the life that you’ve lived?”
And I told him we gave God the glory first. And I told him I was humbled by it.
But that was where the inspiration for “Go Home for Dinner” was born. Because back when I was serving in the Congress, people would sometimes come up to me after I started to show up on television and in public debates more often, and they’d ask a classic Washington question. They’d say, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” And I’d always say, “Home for dinner.”
Because I could tell you that for me, I’ve never had to be motivated to work hard. I am always motivated to try and make a difference in the world for the values that I believe in. But as we recount in this book, I really do believe that for men and women, in the busy lives that we lead today, you have to be intentional about putting your family and your faith first in your life.
And so the opportunity to work with my daughter to tell about the decisions my wife and I made over the last 25 years to do just that was a real joy. But for us, it all really begins with going home for dinner.
Olohan: It’s a pretty countercultural message in today’s society, prioritizing faith and family over everything else.
Pence: I think it can be. Although, honestly, as I traveled around the country over the last two and a half years, including as a candidate for president for a time, I’m convinced that the vast majority of the American people are faith-filled, freedom-loving, family-oriented people. But as our lives have gotten more and more busy, it’s become harder. And particularly, I think, in many ways we’ve lost that tradition of gathering maybe not every day, but on a regular basis with our families over a meal.
And Charlotte and I just, we hope there’s something in this book that’ll make people smile, that they’ll come to appreciate that we’re a pretty typical Christian-American family. But I hope also that people are inspired to turn their hearts toward home because ultimately, I believe it’s our faith and our families in this country that are our ultimate source of strength.
Olohan: I would love to ask Charlotte the next question. I was enjoying reading this book and some of my favorite anecdotes in it were about how you would take Charlotte to breakfast on her birthday and then the other anecdote about how you would not skip Charlotte’s first violin recital, which I thought was very cute because we all know how entertaining those recitals are.
Charlotte, I would love to hear from you. We see so many young women who don’t have fathers struggling nowadays, whether it be in relationships or starting their own families or just finding their way as a woman in society, what role do you think a father plays in a daughter’s life and how do you share this in this book?
Bond: Yeah, that’s a great question. I don’t know if we’ve been asked that yet. I think it’s pretty huge. I think both parents are obviously essential, but I do think that your dad has a unique opportunity to kind of speak into your life, how you view yourself.
We talk about how in this chapter we say—”Take Your Daughter to Breakfast” is the name of the chapter. And it talks about how we went out to breakfast on my birthday every year, and we’d kind of make it work at different times when that didn’t totally pan out schedule-wise. But we talk about at those breakfasts, that there was time for us together to talk about the future, talk about my dreams, what I wanted to do.
And I do remember times when I didn’t feel like I was doing the right thing or didn’t feel like I was living up to a standard I had for myself or that I felt like I should be living up to. And having those breakfasts and those touch points, not just once a year, but throughout a kid’s life, especially a daughter’s life, I think is really, really important. I think that dads have a responsibility to do that, honestly.
Olohan: That’s beautiful. And we see through all these stories in the book that you benefited so much from that guidance and your father’s care in that manner. It kind of touches on another thing that I wanted to ask you both about, but specifically you, Vice President Pence. I think something underdiscussed nowadays is the importance of sacrifice in family formation. We hear a lot about the importance of family and building a strong family, but we don’t always talk about how much sacrifice plays a role in that. What role do you think that sacrifice played in the formation of your family?
Pence: Well, I think it seems like not just in your generation, but for some time in our culture there’s been this notion that you can have it all. And I think to get to your point, I think part of the way that you have a marriage that not only can survive but thrive, a family that can thrive in the busy workday world, is you’ve got to make decisions, you’ve got to make choices.
One of our decisions we write about in “Go Home for Dinner” was when I was elected to Congress. And yes, it took me three times to get elected. So it took a while. But when I finally got elected to Congress in the year 2000, our kids were all under the age of 10. And when we looked at our desire to keep our family close, we made the decision to uproot our family and move our kids to Washington, D.C., during the school year.
They’d come home here to Indiana in the summers and come home on a regular basis. But because I wanted to be home for dinner, because I wanted to be at those violin recitals and at those sporting events, we made the decision to have our family with us together.
And frankly, the other part of it too is just, as I try and reflect with some real honesty in the early pages of the book, back when I had a talk radio show in the 1990s, part of my day was spent in a home office, where a lot of people spend their time. Particularly since COVID, we’ve all discovered the ability with technology like we’re on right now to be able to work from home either all or part of the week.
But I was working from home a good part of the week after my radio program was over, at a time that Charlotte and her brother and sister were very young, and I get very much going and I’m making my calls. I was involved in selling advertising for my radio show and talking to radio stations that were carrying the show around Indiana.
But I knew at the end of the day—and Charlotte admitted the other day that this was a little bit of a surprise to her to learn because it’s not something that she perceived as a child, which I’m happy about—is sometimes the hardest thing I would do at the end of the day was shut the computer off, close my day planner, and say, “OK, that’s enough. Now I’m going to go upstairs. I’m going to sit down at a table where I got maybe a toddler in a high chair and two youngsters running around, and I’m going to catch up with their mother and take an interest in their lives.”
And even though I’ve got a dozen things going on in my head about what the next professional opportunity is, I’ve never regretted those choices.
But I also, I hope we’re transparent in this book about that’s hard for men and women that believe in achievement and have a sense of calling and purpose in their careers and in their professions. But what I want people to know is that, for me, it ultimately comes down to faith as well.
We write in “Go Home for Dinner” that if God didn’t exist, it would never make any sense at all to give up professional time to prioritize your family because there would be a cost. And sometimes there is a cost, but also, from a faith perspective, as we cite in the book, the Bible says he prospers his beloved even while they sleep. And so I’ve always believed that when we make God’s priorities our priorities, when we put the most important relationships in our life first, that he’ll bless that, and he certainly has in our lives, in our family in ways unexpected.
Olohan: So how does going home for dinner benefit your family?
Pence: I think it’s just the continuity. One of the things that I’ve said for a long time and is in the pages of this book is, I’ve always been skeptical of the notion of quality time.
I mean, maybe Charlotte can correct us on this during this interview, but she was awfully hard to schedule growing up. I couldn’t say, “You know what, Charlotte, I’m good with you from 5 to 6 and you can tell me everything that’s going on at school and the girlfriend that made you mad today and the guy that you’re interested in.” No. Most of the time I would go home and I would say, “How was your day?” And you’d get, “It was fine,” right?
To me, you got to be there with some continuity for the moments that your kids open up. And to me, at least growing up, for me, the one common denominator at our little house on 31st Street with the cornfield in the backyard was that whatever else was going on in my parents’ lives, whatever else was going on in our lives, school or playing in the summer months, we were at the dinner table at 6.
But as Charlotte’s quick to say, we know in the busy culture we live in today, it’s hard for people to do that. But the principle is the same, and we hope people find a way to create that safe harbor, that consistent harbor, including we believe in, I said, give your family Sundays, or if your tradition is Saturday or if there’s a day a week that you just simply say that your family always knows, and especially your kids know, “OK, that day’s ours.” And the opportunity to have, to build on relationships and really have good communication comes with that consistency.
Olohan: Right. Well, Charlotte, I would love if you could share with us, what are some of the lessons that you and your father share in this book that you’re taking into your own family’s life? We know you’re a new mother. What are some of these lessons that you are taking into this new family that you’ve started?
Bond: Yeah. It was really interesting to do this book when I did become a mom. We had one Zoom session where we worked together before I had my daughter. So most of it, she was born and she was really sleeping on me during our Zoom meetings or I would be typing and she’s laying on me. She was really tiny when we were writing it.
But I did have to really put a lot of the principles into practice, and I felt that I really needed to if I was going to do something like this, like an interview and be talking about the book and saying people should do this with their family. I felt like I would feel like a hypocrite if I didn’t do that when I was writing it. So when I would be working on it and most of the time just try to put it away and play with her while she was awake for 30 minutes when she’s really tiny.
And I just really tried to do that even on Sundays. We didn’t work on Sundays, and it would’ve been really nice to work on Sundays because my husband could watch the baby. But we really didn’t do that. I really tried hard not to do that, to be present on that day for both of them. So I definitely did that.
I also just think, in general, hearing these stories again as a wife and new mom was cool because, I mean, I’m 30 years old and it was just cool to see where my parents were at in their lives when they were in their 30s and the disappointments my dad had with his jobs and thinking, “OK, I’m done in politics. I’m not going to run for Congress again.” He ran twice and lost and just thought, “OK, that’s done. That was a dream I had, but that’s not going to happen.” And years later ends up running for Congress again and obviously has had a really long career in politics.
So I think just remembering that, that you’re not at the top of your career at the end of your career when you’re 30 years old. And I also think it encouraged me to take time to be present with my daughter a lot and not feel like I was going to get behind or something if I didn’t work full time or do everything that I was doing at the same pace I was doing it before I had her. So I think probably all of those things.
Olohan: That’s amazing. Well, I wanted to slightly pivot and ask you both, and I guess I’d like to start with you, Vice President Pence, whenever I heard about the Pence family for the past, I don’t know, decade, I would always hear about these attacks on your faith. And whether it was the different principles you live by or decisions you made or the schools you were involved with, the churches you were involved with. And I was thinking about this preparing for this interview because I recently interviewed Speaker [Mike] Johnson about his faith, and he’s also undergoing a lot of attacks like this. So I would love to ask you, why do you think it is that the Left and the media are so hostile to politicians who are so faith-filled?
Pence: Well, you’d probably have to ask them. And it may just be that they may not share that worldview. They may not have that background and that experience.
But I will tell you, I mean, everything for us begins with faith. And whether the criticisms about decisions that we made, as we wrote in “Go Home for Dinner,” about building levies around your family and particularly your marriage to create some structures in your life that will protect your marriage, or whether it was when my wife was criticized for teaching at a Christian school that held to a biblical belief in marriage—I’ll be honest with you, we just take those things in stride.
And the remarkable thing to me is, while some of the criticism can seem harsh at the time, almost invariably as I traveled around the country, I would be deeply moved at how many people would come alongside and speak a word of encouragement and support and that they’d come to know the priority we were putting on faith, I perceived through those criticisms.
I mean, I must tell you that Speaker Mike Johnson is a friend. I’m grateful for his leadership. He and I spoke just a few short weeks ago, and I told him that something I had learned along the way was that, as the criticisms came in, it seemed that it gave people more confidence about how sincere we were about our values and about our faith.
And make no mistake about it. For us, everything begins with faith. But both of us have been on a journey. I think one of the great joys for me in writing this book was sharing not only my own journey to coming to faith in Jesus Christ after really rejecting religion entirely in my life, but also in that very same chapter, Charlotte shared about her own journey.
And our message was: Tell your kids, “Don’t fear your doubts.” Karen and I always believed that we ought to, as the Bible says, train up a child in the way they should go, and when they’re old, they’ll not depart from it and claim that faith promise.
But we also told our kids, “We want you to think for yourself. We want you to sort out what you believe in your own.” And we gave our kids room to do that. We still aspire to that.
And so I hope, as people read this book, they’ll ultimately draw the line back to whatever we’ve been able to do, however our family’s been able to thrive. It ultimately has come down to, in my life, and I know in Charlotte’s life, the life of our family, to our faith in God.
Olohan: That’s beautiful. And Charlotte, how would you say that these kinds of faith-oriented attacks have affected the way you look at your faith?
Bond: Yeah. I think it is important. In the “Don’t Figure It Out” chapter we talk about, if you have doubts in your faith, to follow it through and not be afraid of where it’ll end up because we believe God will answer those questions that you have.
So if you’re never challenged in your faith, I think that can be difficult then when the challenges do come and your faith is tested, sometimes then people really struggle and kind of walk away from their faith or feel like it’s not what they thought it was in some way. But I think that, ultimately, if your faith is attacked, it’s not a good thing, but it is something that will strengthen it.
So I think that just being OK with hearing those attacks and looking at the other person with kindness and understanding and understanding sometimes when people are attacking so vehemently, it is because it’s something personal.
I think you see that a lot with pro-life situations when people attack pro-life politicians, or even just advocates, it’s a lot of times because they have a personal experience with abortion. And so just remembering that there’s a human behind them and there’s a human behind me. So there’s more to every story, but I think having your faith tested is something that can really strengthen it.
Olohan: Right. Well, before we go, I would love to ask you both—we know so many young families now that are trying to live a more traditional lifestyle and they’re trying to start their own family, and a lot of that is based on faith. What advice would you give to them if they don’t have precedent in their family life to look back on how to have a faith-filled family like your own? What advice would you give them?
Pence: Well, Mary Margaret, I’d tell them to buy “Go Home for Dinner,” grab a highlighter. No, look, for me, I do think, and Charlotte and I write in the epilogue of the book, I mean, a lot of the supports for marriage and family as a priority in our life in this country have given way in the last few generations. And quite frankly, you look at the American family today, in many respects, it’s in free fall.
About the time I showed up in the world, Mary Margaret, there was maybe 1 in 10 household with someone living alone in America. Now it’s a third of all American households, people are living alone. Some people describe an epidemic of loneliness in this country, and whether it’s a young couple just starting out or whether it’s people that are experiencing that, the Bible says God puts the lonely in families. And my hope is that people reading this book will—I hope it makes them smile.
I hope it gives them some useful tools to think about, but I hope they see us as a pretty ordinary American family that’s had extraordinary opportunities to serve this country, but all along the way, because we made certain decisions to put our faith in family first, have been able, as I said, not just to survive, but to thrive.
I really do believe that you can live your dreams, you can be an extraordinary accomplished man or woman in this country, and you can also have a thriving family, but it’s going to require you to put first things first and really be focused on a core purpose in your life.
I mean, I had one interviewer tell us recently that the heart of this book is maybe Chapter 3, where back about 30 years ago, I heard a sermon that spoke about how God spoke about fulfilling Abraham’s purpose in Genesis 18:19, but it said that he’d chosen Abraham to see the member of his own household, that they would do what is right and just so that the Lord would fulfill his purpose for him.
And I’d gone through, as Charlotte said a few moments ago, I’d gone through a couple of disappointing campaigns. I didn’t know if I’d have the opportunities to make a difference in the world that I felt called to in public life, but it was in that sermon, as we write about in “Go Home for Dinner,” that I reset my dial. I said, “OK, my purpose in life is to be the husband and father that God wants me to be and make everything flow after that.”
And I could say to anyone looking on that that was an incredibly important moment in my life and the life of my family because it seems like the more I focused on making sure that I was the kind of husband, however imperfectly, that Karen deserved, the kind of father that Charlotte deserved, and Michael and Audrey, the more other doors of opportunity opened.
I think God blessed our path even while we focused evermore earnestly on making sure that we made practical decisions to put our family first. So for me, it’s about taking a step of faith, but putting that faith into practice. And as I said, it’s no more complicated than starting out by going home for dinner.
Olohan: Well, thank you both so much for joining us. We’re so glad to have you here, and we’re so excited for our listeners to hear about your book and hopefully go buy it.
Bond: Thanks so much.
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