Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring Senator Bob Dole
‘[T]his soldier, statesman and American hero has never stopped fighting for vulnerable people who have less power and less strength than he does. That is the true measure of servant leadership. That’s Bob Dole. Bob more than deserves the honor we are conferring today. But the way I see it, the greater honor is ours - to thank him, on behalf of the country he has loved and served so faithfully, for his extraordinary service.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate held a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony today honoring Senator Bob Dole. The following are the remarks of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during the ceremony, which took place in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol:
“Sixty-seven years ago, on a January day, a young man headed to the Kansas State Capitol for his swearing-in as State Representative. He was only twenty-seven, but it wouldn’t be the first time he swore to defend the Constitution.
“Back in 1942, just a teenager, he’d raised his right hand and enlisted in the Army. That oath took him to the hills of Italy. One day, his company took heavy fire. A Nazi shell ripped into his shoulder. And although 2nd Lieutenant Robert J. Dole of the 10th Mountain Division beat the odds and recovered, he would live with his war wounds every day thereafter.
“Because of how faithfully he fulfilled that first oath, Bob Dole could no longer raise his right hand. But he wasn’t done serving his country. So he walked into the statehouse, raised his left hand and began the next chapter in a life filled with patriotic sacrifice and public service.
“Bob and I both arrived in the Senate in 1969. He was a new Senator, fresh off a commanding victory. I was a twenty-something staffer. Bob already stood out. The staff marveled at the kindness and decency he showed us, though we had nothing to offer him. Bob spent 35 years in Congress, including a decade as Leader. He ran a national campaign. His fingerprints are all over countless pieces of consequential legislation.
“But the most notable part of Bob’s career is the character that shaped it. His honesty. His humility. His abiding love for the people of Kansas. Bob Dole’s resume never left his roots behind. In the 1980s, it was this son of the Dust Bowl and the Depression who broke the stalemate and helped save Social Security. In 1990, it was this wounded warrior who reached across the aisle to help pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Bob’s accomplishments reshaped public policy. But for anyone who’s served with him, they aren’t his most memorable legacy. That would be either his unimpeachable integrity or his world-class sense of humor. Bob showed us that a leader needs a backbone and a funny bone. In his case, neither was in short supply.
“I didn’t understand how high Bob set the bar until my turn came to follow in his footsteps. You see, Bob and I are members of a small, elite group. We’ve shared a unique role, one with intense demands and awesome responsibilities. That’s right. We’re the only two Americans in history to serve as First Gentleman of the Department of Transportation and the Department of Labor.
“Bob sets a towering example in many ways, and not least is the importance of marrying up. He and Elizabeth have stood together, served together, and encouraged one another with loving friendship. For Elaine and me, as for so many, the Doles truly model what it means to be ‘unlimited partners.’ Elizabeth, it’s wonderful to have you with us today.
“Bob has built an extraordinary life on the basis of ordinary American values. As a legislator, he showed that principles and pragmatism are not opposites, but complements. As a leader, he prized results over rhetoric. And above all – from Castel d’Aiano to Percy Jones Army Hospital to his favorite Senate balcony, facing the Mall – this soldier, statesman and American hero has never stopped fighting for vulnerable people who have less power and less strength than he does.
“That is the true measure of servant leadership. That’s Bob Dole. Bob more than deserves the honor we are conferring today. But the way I see it, the greater honor is ours – to thank him, on behalf of the country he has loved and served so faithfully, for his extraordinary service.”