Today, with great sadness, we mark Bob Dole's passing, a great American politician and patriot.
When I think of Bob Dole, I think of someone who gave everything he had to his country, serving first as a soldier, then as a statesman. Bob Dole was the ultimate American.
Dole was born in Russell, Kansas, in 1923, where he attended public schools. He sought his college education at the University of Kansas, where he played football, basketball, and ran track. His college studies were interrupted by World War II, and he left Kansas to fight in the war.
Dole was assigned as a Second Lieutenant in the 10th Mountain Division of the United States Army. He would joke that this assignment was "typical Army" since he was from the plains and assigned to a mountain climbers and skiers division.
While taking a hill in Northern Italy, Dole's unit came under fire. As Dole raced to rescue a downed radioman, he was shot by German machine gunfire in the back and arm. His injuries were so severe that many didn't think he would survive.
I think a lot about how hard it must have been to come back from those injuries and how strong Dole's spirit must have been to see him through such a challenge. His recovery was slow, and his injuries ultimately left him with limited use of his right arm and numbness in his left. He had to learn how to button his shirts and write with his left hand. Nevertheless, he survived, and upon returning home, he immediately went back to school to finish his degree.
After graduation, he went to law school and was still studying law when the local business community approached him about running for office in Kansas. He decided to take the plunge and ran successfully for the Kansas House of Representatives, kicking off a long, successful, and impactful career in politics.
Bob Dole epitomized The American Dream. He grew up poor in rural Kansas but took advantage of every opportunity that presented itself and ended up walking the halls of American power in the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate, eventually as the Senate Majority leader twice. Bob Dole also ran for President of the United States twice — in 1988 and 1996, and ran for Vice President with Gerald Ford in 1976. Like me, he was a Freemason and a member of Kappa Sigma.
Dole was a tough negotiator and a hardline conservative. He played a part in some of the most tense showdowns between the Republican-controlled Senate and President Bill Clinton's White House, including a total government shutdown. He was a fighter, and he used his power to help people in Kansas and across the country.
To me, Bob Dole represents the spirit of America: strength in the face of hardship and resolve in the face of uncertainty. He was a rock in the United States government until he retired from public service in 1996.
His determination shone through in the way he carried himself. He would hold a pen in his right hand to overcome the stiffness in that arm, shaking hands with his left. He didn't let an injury stop him, and he never allowed defeat to define him. Bob Dole was a lion in the Senate and a fierce conservative as Chairman of the GOP.
Bob Dole was a model citizen, a great man for this country, and a true American patriot. To quote William Shakespeare, "I shall not look upon his like again."