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Bob Dole earns the Congressional Gold Medal PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 January 2018 11:59

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America desperately needs another Bob Dole



OUR OPINION, L&T staff



A swell of Kansas pride could be felt Wednesday when Bob Dole received Congress’ highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, for his public service as both a soldier in World War II and to Congress as a member of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

For many who came of age during Dole’s 35-year history as an elected official, Dole was a stalwart leader, but he also had the ability to get even the most stubborn to compromise.

From 1961 to 1996, Dole served with class and dignity in the halls of Congress, and as a Republican, he also championed such causes as the school lunch program and health care for veterans and others with disabilities.

Kansans knew full well why he always had a pen in his right hand during congressional stops to town. He suffered a permanent injury while serving in Italy during World War II when a Nazi mortar exploded too close to his position, damaging his right arm. For the rest of his life, his right hand was only seen in a fisted position, and in public, holding a pen so that when others came up to shake his hand, they would see his right hand occupied and switch to the left.

It was a simple way to avoid an awkward situation, but that is exactly how Dole served the people of Kansas, and his senatorial colleagues saw the leadership qualities that propelled him to be his party’s leader for 11 years.

He could have served longer if he wanted, but when he sought the office of the presidency in 1996, he stepped away from the Senate to focus on his campaign and to remove any thought of his leadership role in the U.S. Senate as a consolation prize.

“I’m either going to the White House, or I am going home,” he said during his resignation speech to his Senate colleagues.

He had sought the office of the presidency before, losing in the primary of 1992 to George H.W. Bush, and despite the bitter primary fight, four years later when Bush was defeated for the presidency, a sad Dole said, “You deserved better, Mr. President. Clinton may have won the election and be attending the ball, but as the leader of the Senate, I will be his chaperone.”

Dole never let partisanship pervade policy. Either something was good policy, or it wasn’t, and if it was good, he would work to see it through regardless of whether it was presented by a Republican or a Democrat.

The term “bipartisan” was not a slur in his era, and the two parties had a leader like Dole that would reach across the aisle.

And the people of Kansas didn’t punish him for that. Instead, they rewarded him with term after term. Dole wasn’t just making life better for Kansans, he was making life better for Americans, and he had the respect and trust from leaders on both sides in the quest for achieving what he called “the long view” rather than a short-term political victory.

Those who came of age under this type of leadership may not have realized how rare or difficult it was to accomplish what Dole did until after he left the Senate.

And with his departure, an era of hyper-partisan division has ushered itself into the halls of Congress in a high-stakes winner-take-all approach, where compromise is a term that means weakness rather than strength.

The current leaders in both parties have failed to reach the skill level that Dole had as both the leader of the majority and minority party. Either way, Dole was able to deliver meaningful legislation.

He also championed the creation of the World War II Memorial along the Plaza in Washington, D.C., and he pushed for a memorial for another great man from Kansas, the Supreme Allied Commander of World War II, Five Star General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

That’s what Dole has always done — seek to bring recognition to others, whether it was a child who couldn’t afford his school lunch or a disabled adult who felt they couldn’t contribute, or a soldier who fought freedom’s biggest battle and thought the effort went unnoticed.

Dole was thinking of all of them.

Dole’s life is the true example of the Kansas motto, “To the stars through difficulty.” He never took the easy road, but he was able to reach higher than most because he was willing to challenge us the most.

And his inspiration lives on, showing that if a small town boy from Russell, Kansas, can find a way to work with others, anybody can.

Tomorrow, the same struggles for policy will continue in Washington, and we are all left with the same question today — who will be the next Bob Dole? Who will put country above party, policy above politics?  Who will be able to craft meaningful legislation that can have the support of both sides of the aisle, and which leader will be able to convince his colleagues to take the long view to get it done.

We know it can be done, because a simple man from Kansas did it. We need more Bob Doles.

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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