Bipartisan remembrances offered on behalf of Dole

Robert "Bob" Dole—a Russell, Kansas, native, a giant in public policy and a former presidential candidate—has died, and his legacy touched rural and urban Americans.

The death of Robert “Bob” Dole, a Russell, Kansas, native, was confirmed Dec. 5 via his wife’s foundation Twitter account. Dole overcame a devastating World War II injury to become a congressman and senator. He later became Senate Majority Leader before resigning in 1996 to begin his unsuccessful Republican candidacy against President Bill Clinton. Dole died of lung cancer at the age of 98.

President Joe Biden called Dole a longtime friend as they both served together for many years in Congress.

“Bob was an American statesman like few in our history. A war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation. And to me, he was also a friend whom I could look to for trusted guidance, or a humorous line at just the right moment to settle frayed nerves. I will miss my friend. But I am grateful for the times we shared, and for the friendship Jill and I and our family have built with Liddy and the entire Dole family,” the president said. “Bob was a man to be admired by Americans. He had an unerring sense of integrity and honor. May God bless him, and may our nation draw upon his legacy of decency, good humor and patriotism for all time.”

Kansas’ longest serving current member of Congress was quick to praise Dole for his wisdom and courage.

“Sen. Bob Dole will be remembered as a true American hero and an exemplary statesman—a man who chose what was right over what was convenient,” said U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-KS. “Whether it was on the battlefield, in the halls of Congress, or in his everyday life, Sen. Dole’s passion and dedication to his fellow Kansan and to his country was a steady reminder that a single person can make a difference and change the world.

“Robba and I mourn his passing, but we also celebrate his incredible life. Sen. Dole was raised in Russell, Kansas, before serving in World War II where he earned two Purple Hearts. He then spent a remarkable 36 years on Capitol Hill, rising to become Senate Majority Leader and leading significant legislative achievements, including the American with Disabilities Act and the Dole-McGovern Food for Education program. Known for working toward commonsense solutions over partisan ones, he became the first Kansan since Dwight D. Eisenhower to be the Republican nominee for president.”

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset on Dec. 9, which was in coordination with proclamation signed by Biden.

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Bob Dole this morning,” Kelly said. “Sen. Dole was many things—a war hero, a father, a husband, a public servant; and to Kansans, a man who embodied everything good and decent about Kansas and about America.

“In public office, Sen. Dole was always a voice for Kansas. However, his work in the Senate also had a profound impact on all Americans. Most notably, his efforts to protect Social Security in 1983 and to ensure passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, which transformed the lives of those living with a disability.

“Sen. Dole’s legacy goes far beyond the walls of Congress. He was a larger-than-life presence in our nation’s politics and demonstrated a decency, a humility, and a civility that should serve as a model for those of us in public life.”

“Today, Kansas and our entire nation are heartbroken having lost a giant with the passing of Sen. Bob Dole,” said freshman Sen. Roger Marshall, R-KS. “As one of the heroes from our greatest generation, you would be hard pressed to find someone with a bigger heart and more resilient than Sen. Dole. He was an American hero, a statesman of the highest order, and one of the greatest legislators of all time.

“While he had incredible negotiating skills and was tough as nails, it was his huge heart and ability to work across the aisle that constantly led the way and delivered results for all Americans. For him, it was always more than politics, it was about being a positive influence for our nation and the world.”

Kansas other lawmakers, Democrat Sharice Davids, and Republicans Tracey Mann, Jake LaTurner and Ron Estes also praised Dole and expressed their condolences to the Dole family

Kansas Farm Bureau President Rich Felts also noted Dole’s work on many fronts.

“Kansas, and the world, has lost a giant. We are deeply saddened by the passing of Sen. Bob Dole, one of Kansas’ favored sons, a war hero and statesman whose influence spanned farms to foreign affairs. Sen. Dole was an exemplary public servant who successfully balanced principle with pragmatism to represent the interests of Kansans and the country.”

Dole served in the U.S. House from 1961 to 1969 and while he was staunch conservative he supported the 1974 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was elected to the Senate in 1968 and served for nearly 27 years. Dole was a member of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees for 27 years.

Dole was a running mate with President Gerald Ford in 1976 and ran for president on two other occasions in 1980 and 1988.

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When President Ronald Reagan won in 1980 Dole became chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Dole authored numerous legislative landmark laws that remain today. Along with Sen. Patrick Moynihan, D-NY, he crafted the legislation to preserve the Social Security System from bankruptcy in 1983. His foundation noted that out of concern for those who were experiencing hunger in America and worldwide he partnered with longtime friend George McGovern, D-SD, to create the food stamp program and the International Food Aid Program. The two were recognized by the World Food Prize in 2008 and co-recipients of the McGovern-Dole Leadership Award.

As a result of his war injuries and 39-month rehabilitation process he partnered with Sens. Nancy Kassebaum, R-KS, and Tom Harkin, D-IA, to secure enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, which his foundation noted provided millions of Americans with public access and employment opportunities that were previously closed.

Although his legislative career ended in 1996, he continued to work on behalf of veterans. He worked with Fred Smith of FedEx and many others to spearhead a $185 million campaign for the National World War II Memorial on the Washington Mall, which was dedicated in 2004 and Dole and his wife, Elizabeth, personally welcomed thousands of veterans. In June 2009 the Doles accepted President Barack Obama’s invitation to accompany them to Normandy, France, for the marking of the 65th anniversary of D-Day.

Dole is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Hanford Dole, and his daughter, Robin Carol Dole.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].