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Given our frequent laments about the increasing lack of bipartisanship in Washington, it is no surprise that we’re fond of lawmakers who understand principled differences of opinion and value 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, 27 of them in the U.S. Senate, where he was majority leader for several years.
“Bob Dole dedicated his entire life to serving the American people, from his heroism in 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 ran against, and beat Dole in 1996. It was Dole’s third and final run for the presidency. The others were in 1980 and 1988.
Dole was most proud of helping to rescue Social Security in 1983, of pushing 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 entitlement. He opposed many President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs, but he supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the paper reported.
Dole was the last surviving member of the Senate who had served in World War II. With his passing, the country has lost an important connection to a defining time in American history.
Dole enlisted in the Army Reserve while in college was called to active duty with 10th Mountain Division in 1943. He was grievously wounded in Italy in 1945. His injuries were so bad that he was left for dead. An aspiring surgeon, he returned home mostly paralyzed. After years of recovery, he regained the use of his legs and left arm, but not his right hand. He typically clutched a pen in that hand to avoid the expected awkward handshakes.
“Rather than dwell on what he had lost, he said later, he made up his mind to ‘focus on what I had left and what I could do with it,’” Sen. Susan Collins said.
“When I first came to the Senate in 1997, I had the opportunity to hear a speech given by Sen. Dole, which made an indelible impression,” she added. “Bearing the wounds of his courageous service in World War II for more than a half-century, he said this: ‘We need to make our deepest commitments clear: that aging should not mean poverty; that disabilities should not mean indignity; that diversity should not mean discrimination.’”
After his long tenure in the U.S. Senate, Dole devoted his time to serving and helping fellow veterans.
Former Maine state Sen. Marge Kilkelly recalled seeing Dole at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 2015 when she was at the monument with Maine veterans.
“He arrived quietly and took time to visit with everyone, truly enjoying the moment,” she wrote on Facebook. “I later learned that he spent many days at that Memorial greeting Veterans and their families.”
“It was about America, political differences never came up. This is what we are supposed to be about, respecting each other even when we disagree, putting country first,” the former Democratic lawmaker wrote. “I mourn his loss and the loss of the comity in public service.”
We mourn these losses as well.