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Opinion: Goodbye to Bob Dole, a great American and an even greater human being

By December 5, 2021December 6th, 2021No Comments

Bob Dole speaks to supporters as he announced his bid for the Republican nomination for president in Topeka, Kan., on April 10, 1995. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)

By Tom Daschle // Washington Post

Tom Daschle, a Democrat, is a former U.S. senator from South Dakota. He served as the Democratic leader in the Senate from 1995 to 2005, including as Senate majority leader from 2001 to 2003.

I have always believed that life has no blessing like that of a good friend. To know Bob Dole, who died Sunday at age 98, was to know the truth of that statement.

Bob’s friendship was a blessing that enriched my life beyond measure. His dedication to public service, his determination to keep Washington and Congress places of civility, and his kindness to me and my wife, Linda, made our friendship a blessing as rich as life offers.

When I arrived in the Senate in 1987, Bob was one of the first senators to make me feel welcome. We served together on the Finance and Agriculture committees, and almost from the beginning seemed to have many similar views, especially in agriculture and nutrition.

Bob faced the world — both its cruelties and its kindnesses — with humility, humanity and, of course, humor. I remember my first appearance with Bob after we were both elected leaders of our parties in the Senate in 1995 (our tenures briefly overlapped before he stepped down to run for president in 1996). It was at a reception where he noted that my election was received with great enthusiasm in farm country because for the first time in history, both party leaders in the Senate were from farm states. “Every farmer in America that very week had ordered a new tractor,” he said.

Bob liked to share a story from when he was first elected to Congress and a reporter asked what his agenda would be. He said, “I’m going to sit and watch for a couple of days, and then I’ll stand up for what’s right.”

That’s exactly what he did. He stood up for minorities early in his career when he broke party ranks and supported the landmark Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. He stood up for the elderly and worked with Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (N.Y.) to save Social Security. He stood up for the young and worked with my fellow Democratic South Dakotan Sen. George McGovern on nutrition assistance. He stood up for the disabled and worked with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) on the Americans With Disabilities Act. And he stood up for his fellow veterans as chairman of the World War II Memorial Campaign.

Bob didn’t always have an easy life. He faced some hard yesterdays. He endured losses — physical, political and personal. But for all he did lose, Bob never lost himself. He never lost his sense of humor. He never lost his sense of integrity. He never lost his love for his hometown of Russell, Kan., or his love for his wife, Elizabeth. And he never lost his hope for tomorrow.

Tom Daschleformer U.S. Senator, NICD National Advisory Board Co-Chair

I know that last accomplishment in particular meant a lot to him. He once even wondered if he could be buried at the memorial. He may not receive his final rest there, but I think of Bob every time I see that monument.