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Given our frequent lamentations over the growing lack of two-party politics in Washington, it’s no surprise that we like lawmakers who understand principled differences of opinion and appreciate opportunities for compromise.
Bob Dole was such a lawmaker. The former Kansas senator, who announced earlier this year that he was battling lung cancer, died Sunday at the age of 98.
Dole, a Republican, served in Congress for 35 years, including 27 in the United States Senate, where he served as majority leader for several years.
“Bob Dole has dedicated his entire life to serving the American people, from his heroism during World War II to the 35 years he spent in Congress,” former President Bill Clinton said on Twitter on Sunday. “After all he gave in the war, he didn’t have to give more. But he did. His example should inspire people today and for generations to come.”
Clinton raced against and defeated Dole in 1996. It was Dole’s third and last run for the presidency. The others date from 1980 and 1988.
Dole was very proud of helping save Social Security in 1983, pushing forward the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, according to the New York Times.
He worked with Democrats George S. McGovern of South Dakota to expand the food stamp program and Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota to make school lunches a federal right. He opposed many of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s big business agendas, but supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the newspaper reported.
Dole was the last surviving member of the Senate who had served in World War II. With his passing, the country lost an important connection to a defining period in American history.
Dole enlisted in the Army Reserve while in college was called up to active duty with the 10th Mountain Division in 1943. He was seriously injured in Italy in 1945. His injuries were so serious that he was left for dead. A aspiring surgeon, he returned home almost paralyzed. After years of recovery, he regained the use of his legs and left arm, but not of his right hand. He usually held a pen in that hand to avoid the awkward handshakes expected.
“Rather than dwell on what he had lost, he said later, he decided to ‘concentrate on what I had left and what I could do with it'”, said Senator Susan Collins.
“When I first came to the Senate in 1997, I had the opportunity to hear a speech by Senator Dole, which made an indelible impression,” she added. “Carrying the wounds of his courageous service in World War II for more than half a century, he said: ‘We must clarify our deepest commitments: that aging must not mean poverty; that disability should not mean unworthiness; that diversity should not mean discrimination. ‘”
After his long term in the US Senate, Dole dedicated his time to serving and helping fellow veterans.
Former Maine State Senator Marge Kilkelly recalled seeing Dole at the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC, in 2015, while at the monument with veterans from Maine.
“He arrived quietly and took the time to visit everyone, really enjoying the moment,” she wrote on Facebook. “I later learned that he had spent several days at this memorial welcoming the veterans and their families.
“This was about America, political disputes never arose. That’s what we’re supposed to do, respect each other even when we don’t agree, put the country first. “wrote the former Democratic lawmaker. “I mourn his loss and the loss of civility in public service.”
We also mourn these losses.