Still sharp and witty at the age of 90, former Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole graciously spoke and then greeted each of the dozens of community members who waited in line to see the elder statesman in Great Bend Wednesday afternoon in Great Bend.
“I may decide to run for re-election,” he told the crowd of 150, opening with a speech. “I may pass up 2016 and wait until later on.”
Dole has visited 45 counties and plans to visit the other 60 in Kansas, but plans to wait until after July and August because it’s too hot. “I think I’ll make it around.”
He thanked the group for giving him the opportunity to serve in the U.S. House and Senate, where he was majority leader.
The former legislator remembered the highlights of those years of service. “Ronald Reagan (former president) was very persuasive and just a wonderful person. People wonder why things don’t happen today.”
“Ronald Reagan taught me one thing,” Dole said. “Sometimes you don’t get everything you want. He understood sometimes you have to give a little.”
Dole was proud of the accomplishments in his life. He listed helping rescue Social Security in 1983, mentioning how many seniors rely on Social Security and what a highly political thing it was to do.
He added that it probably needs to be fixed again.
Another congressional act that he was particularly proud of was the American with Disabilities Act. The idea behind it was to provided those with disabilities a better life and better opportunities. “It was very contention and controversial,” he said. But it got passed, and “it changed a lot of things.”
Dole himself had injuries he received serving in World War II.
He spoke of the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. He frequently goes down on Saturday’s to the memorial. He highly recommended stopping at it during trips to Washington.
The former senator also shared his disappointments. “My biggest disappointment is not getting a balanced budget amendment passed,” he said. Dole is concerned with how the budget deficit will affect seniors and those with low income and was adamant that something needed to be done.
He also had comments on the current political divisions in Washington D.C., saying that the parties were split within themselves. “The new breed of conservatives are really conservative. They don’t vote for anything.”
Dole said the Democrats were also divided among those that wanted big government that take over everything, including healthcare. President Barack Obama had called because he had read about his trip around Kansas and thought it was a good thing to do.
“I think Barack Obama is a nice person,” he said. “I don’t think he enough experience.”
Robert Joseph “Bob” Dole was born July 22, 1923 is an attorney and was a U.S. Senator from 1969–1996, serving part of that time as Senate majority leader, according the Bob Dole website.
He was the Republican nominee in the 1996 U.S. Presidential election, but lost the election to Bill Clinton. He was the Republican vice presidential nominee in the 1976 U.S. presidential election, but lost the election to Walter Mondale.
Dole was born in rural Russell County, Kan. Dole’s father, Doran Ray Dole, ran an egg and cream distribution station and later, a grain elevator. His mother Bina (Talbot) Dole, sold Singer sewing machines and vacuum cleaners.
He was an athlete that played all sports in high school.
Dole began his political career in 1950, serving in the Kansas House of Representatives.