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- American politician
Former senator and 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, who passed away on Dec. 5 at 98, was my friend. Me, a 17-year-old junior in high school from Cincinnati, was friends with Bob Dole. Crazy, right?
What kind of political legend like Senator Dole has time to talk to a random high schooler? He did. That was the essence of Bob Dole.
Throughout his entire life, it didn’t matter who you were. He was always looking to make new friends. I’m glad I was one of them.
In March of this year, after an interesting series of events where emails were exchanged and plans were made, only to be foiled by COVID-19, Sen. Dole called me on the phone to have a meaningful conversation with me for about 15 minutes. We talked bipartisanship, the Republican Party, the Biden administration’s vaccine rollout plans and Joe Lieberman, among other topics. It is an experience I will never forget.
At 97 and fresh off a lung cancer diagnosis, he still made the effort to call to thank me for some pictures I had sent of a birthday cake my friends and I made that past July with the words "Happy Birthday Bob Dole" written on it. I sent the pictures to his special assistant after his cancer diagnosis to try to cheer him up. I was certainly not expecting a phone call. After the call, the more extensive research I did on his life, the more I realized how remarkable it was.
Persevering through a grievous World War II injury, fostering bipartisanship in Congress, and advocating for noble causes in retirement, all with his famous sense of humor, defined his career and spoke to his core values of resilience and integrity. In 1982, he helped renew a strengthened Voting Rights Act. In 1983, he worked with a prominent Democratic senator to save Social Security, and in 1990, he was instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a bill that revolutionized the way that disabled persons are treated in America. Every single American’s life has been positively impacted one way or another because of Sen. Dole, and those are only three major examples.
After his retirement in 1996 to focus on running for president, he hosted pet adoption events through the ASPCA in Washington D.C., as well as co-chairing the WWII Memorial Commission, where he raised $197 million for its construction. Former President Bill Clinton, who beat Dole in 1996, remarked, "After all he gave in the war, he didn’t have to give more. But he did." Because Bob Dole chose to give more, he fundamentally changed this country for the better, leaving it better than he found it.
In a final column of his, written for USA Today, he pleaded for unity during this hyper-partisan political time. He said, "Our history is rich with political debate and deep divisions, but collectively we share a common purpose for a better America. We cannot let political differences stand in the way of that common good." Throughout his career, Sen. Dole never lost sight of the common good that unites us as Americans. Compromise, a concept he embodied, is what strengthens us. He knew that compromise has been the key to success in America since its inception, an idea that many politicians, especially our local and state politicians, would be wise to remember.
For these reasons, I am glad that I had a relationship with someone from an era when most politicians simply wanted to work in the best interests of the people they served. The loss of Sen. Dole is a major loss for our country and is certainly the end of an era. However, using this time to reflect on his legacy and asking ourselves how we can best serve and compromise with others while not taking ourselves too seriously would be the best way to honor his memory.
Nick Watts of Hyde Park is a junior at Cincinnati Country Day School.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Opinion: Dole never lost sight of common good that unites us as Americans