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Sitting on the desk in Rep. Mike Pences Longworth House Office Building space is a bright red mock rotary phone. The object sticks out as it sits beside a regular, run-of-the-mill office phone, and it is the most brightly colored object in the room. It only has one line, and only one person in the world has the phone number.
Mrs. Pence is the only one who has the number, not anyone on the staff. She occasionally shares it with the kids, but when this phone rings, I answer it, the Indiana Republican says with a smile.
Former Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) recommended Pence get a separate family phone when he arrived in Congress in 2001.
He said, After hours when the switchboard is off, you ought to put a separate line in the office. This was before everybody was wearing BlackBerrys and cell phones and such, Pence said.
Pences wife purchased the red phone and gave it to him as a Christmas gift during his first term. The couple had the phone installed with a line separate from the main switchboard, and to this day it is Pences favorite part of his office. The phone is more necessary now that Pence is chairman of the Republican Conference, a job that keeps him busier than ever.
The phone isnt the only object in the office that can be traced back to Karen Pence. Her fingerprints are all over the Congressmans personal office. A watercolor that she painted of a front porch in Indiana decorates one wall, while a photo she gave her husband after he was elected hangs beside it.
The photo is a view of D.C. taken from the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va. The famous bronze statue of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima is in the forefront, while the Washington and Lincoln memorials glow against the backdrop of a purple sky. The Capitol Dome glistens in the distance. The photo is accompanied by the Bible verse, Be strong and courageous and do the work.
During his 1988 failed Congressional campaign, Pence read the book Flags of Our Fathers and found himself inspired by the bravery and patriotism of the Marines at Iwo Jima. When he first visited Washington during that campaign, he went straight to the memorial.
I got off the airplane and I jumped in the cab. I told the cabbie, I want you to take me to the Iwo Jima memorial, he says. I wanted to see these Americans.
The view from that hill in Arlington now holds a special place in Pences heart as a reminder that there is more to serving in public office than just what happens in Washington.
I always said you had to look past men like these to see this city, Pence says.
The verse that accompanies the photo is not the only trace of religion in Pences office. He keeps a tattered Bible on his desk. The pages of the red book are wrinkled with age, and the spine is taped together. Pence purchased the Bible in 1986 when he was studying at the Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington. He tries to read the book every morning, and the text is peppered with his personal notations.