Above, Charlotte and Karen Pence with the real Marlon Bundo.
April 2018 – When a bunny rabbit has over 17,000 Instagram followers, it’s time for him to have his own book, especially if that furry social media sensation is Marlon Bundo, BOTUS, the official Bunny of the United States.
So, Second Lady Karen Pence and daughter Charlotte teamed up to write and illustrate a book about their pet rabbit and their family patriarch: Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President.
It was easy to imagine Marlon starring alongside the vice president. After all, Charlotte found Marlon Bundo during a college film project.
“I needed a bunny in the movie, so I went on Craigslist and found Marlon,” Charlotte explained to AFA Journal. “He has always been quite the ham.”
Her mother agreed, “When Charlotte takes pictures of him [for Instagram], Marlon seems to know—‘This is my good side.’ And he’ll stand and hold a pose. It’s really hysterical.”
The second lady was not surprised that Charlotte, always the family author, actually penned the book so quickly.
“Once Charlotte got the idea, she wanted it rhyming,” said Mrs. Pence. “Then, she just sat down, and it flowed. It was really fun to see that creative process.”
Before writing, Charlotte researched her father’s constitutional duties, focusing on an average day in the life of the vice president.
Mrs. Pence then painted 24 watercolor illustrations, posing Marlon according to the flow of Charlotte’s narrative poetry.
“We had fun working together. I already knew my mom was an incredible watercolor artist,” said Charlotte. “So, I think it’s great that people are going to see her work.”
Poetry with purpose
Mother and daughter hope to support specific charities with portions of book sales. Charlotte will aid A21 in its fight against human trafficking (a21.org). Her mother will fund art therapy through Riley Children’s Hospital and Tracy’s Kids (rileychildrens.org; tracyskids.org).
With art therapy as her official platform, the second lady brings awareness to the need for art therapy, especially for patients battling cancer, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I became aware of what art therapy was when I observed some children at Tracy’s Kids, an art therapy program at Lombardi Cancer Center,” explained Mrs. Pence. “Those kids wanted to come back for their next infusion, so I thought there had to be something to art therapy.”
Mrs. Pence worked as first lady of Indiana to help fund an art therapy program at Riley Children’s Hospital. She emphasizes art therapy is not arts and crafts.
“It’s not like when I get my watercolors out to paint and feel good; it’s actual therapy,” said Mrs. Pence. “And for it to be actual therapy, it has to have the client, the art, and the trained art therapist.”
“One reason it’s so effective specifically with some of our soldiers,” she added, “is the tactile nature of art therapy. It affects the part of the brain that works with memory, making it very effective with our wounded warriors dealing with traumatic brain injury, helping them work through those issues.”
Even with Mrs. Pence’s passion for art therapy, one thing surpasses it.
“The family is number one,” she said. “It’s our priority. Mike said many times, ‘If I lose my family, then none of this would have been worth it.’ In fact, Charlotte gave him a plaque saying, ‘Do the right thing, and then go home for dinner.’ It’s kind of his motto.”
Family comes first
Charlotte reflected on those priorities: “My mom said the way to teach your kids to fight for their dreams is to fight for your own. We got to watch them both live out their dreams every day – but their dreams were also to have a family. That was always first, no matter what. I was really blessed to have that.”
She added, “My parents continue to be the first people I go to for advice or with a problem. I know that comes from little moments, making decisions to put family first.”
Mrs. Pence emphasized it is often hard to put family first, like the time her husband declined an invitation from President Bush in order to be at Charlotte’s first violin recital.
“He couldn’t always do that, but we wanted the kids to know our family is the priority,” said Mrs. Pence. “That’s one of the things I love about Mike. He always tries to make the family feel like we are a priority.”
Family first is still their motto, but family dynamics have changed since becoming vice president and second lady of the United States. They now have a totally empty nest, with their children – Michael, Charlotte, and Audrey – living far away.
“I honestly don’t think our family has changed that much,” said Charlotte. “We’re as close as before, if not closer. Our lives have changed, but our relationships with each other have only grown stronger.”
“We were all together over Christmas,” added Mrs. Pence, “and we made more of an effort to play a lot of games and spend a lot of time talking and doing things together because I think we valued that time together so much.”
Faith in the field
After the holidays, Charlotte headed back to California where she works at United Talent Agency. She spoke of navigating in a culture that is not always accepting of Christianity.
“We just have to keep our faith and live it out. I know it can be daunting,” she admitted. “It’s not always easy to act in a way that is glorifying to God. So, it’s important to keep on fighting the fight, knowing that people are out there who feel the same thing.
“It’s also important to go into areas and cross into industries that are not typically Christian industries,” she added. “Once you get in there, you realize, as I have, there are a lot of people who may feel like an outsider or afraid to speak about their faith. But if you’re in there, you’re able to encourage, and you’re able to be an example.”
Mrs. Pence sees their political spotlight as a service opportunity as well.
“We always felt in our political lives that we’re here to serve God wherever He puts us,” she stated. “For us, it’s just been a willingness to serve. We try not to take credit for the position we’re in right now.
“The first time Mike ran for Congress and won, my Bible study teacher told me we might just be someone’s answer to prayer,” continued Mrs. Pence. “That put us in a great frame of mind to be willing to serve.”
It seemed fitting to ask Mrs. Pence how AFAJ readers can best pray for her family.
“Mike always says, ‘Pray for my family, my wife and my children,’” Mrs. Pence answered. “But we just pray for wisdom, energy, and a willingness to do whatever we are supposed to be doing.”
She added, “It does take everyone’s prayers. We really do believe that.”
Read one of Charlotte’s most acclaimed blog pieces about her Christian faith, Believing in God and Other 21st Century Burdens, here.