I love Bob Dole.
I had the high honor to serve as his director of communications for a few years after he left the Senate. During that time, I came to realize that in my life, I had never met a human being with so much real empathy or someone who so deeply felt the pain of those he cared for, or even strangers he had never met.
I have never been more proud of him than when, with the help of his aide and tears in his eyes, 95 year-old Bob Dole struggled to his feet Tuesday to stand on the floor of the Capitol Rotunda so he could salute former President George H. W. Bush one last time.
One incredibly humble hero paying tribute to another.
As I watched Bob Dole fight to remain standing long enough to offer his salute to his friend the 41st president, I thought quite a bit about them both, as well as the likes of Jimmy Carter, George McGovern and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. As I did, I realized that we will never see their kind again.
Bob Dole was one of Best Generation's very best
Because of the hard times of his childhood coupled with the suffering and lessons of war, Bob Dole has never forgotten where he came from, what he overcame, or the examples of perseverance and sacrifice set by his parents. It is for those reasons and more that he has often worn his emotions on his sleeve while never being ashamed to shed a tear.
During the times we have seen each other or talked since I moved from Washington, I always closed the conversation by telling him I love him and how proud I am of what he truly represents.
That being one of the very best of the Best Generation.
We just won’t see their kind again.
They were giants from a time gone by.
That I was bearing witness to the great and final shadows cast by that best generation as they wane before my very eyes. Shadows thrown from steel that will never envelope, protect, or lead us again.
George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, Jimmy Carter, George McGovern and Daniel Patrick Moynihan were and are the very personification of honor, courage, class, dignity, humility and service to others.
Politics aside, they were and are exceptional human beings who, for the fleeting decades they walked among us, lifted a nation.
They believed in causes greater than themselves
They did so because they all believed in causes greater than themselves. They did so by leading by example, embracing responsibility, and walking the walk. They relished debate, were open to compromise, were not afraid to lead, and eager to share or give credit. All served their nation in the military — Bush, Dole and McGovern in combat.
All knew personal pain and loss.
Each felt a calling. Each had a purpose. Each made a real and lasting difference.
All but two are now gone.
Sir Isaac Newton once said: “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”
As I watched Bob Dole’s trembling hand salute George H.W. Bush, I knew I was seeing one of the last giants.
When all have fallen, we will have no shoulders left to stand upon.
Pity us all.
Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and author of most recently: "The North Pole Project: In Search of the True Meaning of Christmas."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole are the last of giants who carried America on their shoulders