Remarks Of Senator Patrick Leahy
Congressional Medal Ceremony
For Senator Bob Dole
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Bob, what a flood of memories come to the surface, to be here with you and Elizabeth. Marcelle and I feel blessed for the opportunities we’ve had to spend time with you both on so many occasions, but especially at your wedding reception.
I’ve enjoyed and learned much from working with Senator Bob Dole, with Majority Leader Bob Dole, and with Republican Leader Bob Dole, beginning when I was a young member of the Senate. And as time went on, also as a not-so-young member of the Senate.
Beyond the impressive fact that Bob Dole is the Nation’s longest-serving Republican Leader of the Senate, it can be safely said that Bob Dole is a Senate legend.
The best leaders I have known in my 43 years in the Senate have shown three special qualities. First, they have understood, appreciated, and protected the Senate’s unique constitutional role in our system.
A second trait in the best leaders is the ability to bring people together to forge agreements, based on -- excuse the word -- compromises. As David McCullough has observed about Congress, little of great consequence is accomplished by any legislator, alone. High achievement is a joint effort.
A Senate Leader needs all the tools. Effective lawmaking is a methodical and painstaking process that calls upon the skills of a quarterback, a shepherd, an explainer, and a Father confessor.
As a Leader, Bob Dole was a catalyst. A facilitator. And a straight talker. He happened to have one of the best senses of humor of any Senator I served with – and he would frequently aim his rapier wit at himself. He and George Mitchell, the Democratic Leader, met every day to chart the way forward. He invited Democrats and Republicans into his office to chart the way forward.
And the third trait, most important of all, is trust. A good and effective leader must keep his or her word. Bob Dole is a man of his word.
He suffered terrible injuries in a horrific world war.
He knew that government can play a constructive role in the lives of its citizens – views that today are considered heresy in some circles. The ordeal of his severe injuries would lead him to become a champion for others who cope with disabilities.
I watched conservative Bob Dole and liberal George McGovern create the International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. Because of that, the lives of countless people – most of whom will never know their names -- were improved.
In the end, we’re only as strong as our values, and our values are only as real as our actions. Bob Dole rose to many, many challenges, often under tremendous pressures, to put country above party. An example we should all follow.
So we say well done, Senator Dole. A grateful nation thanks you. And the venerable United States Senate, that you love so deeply, is better and stronger for your stewardship. We all thank you, and we offer you and Elizabeth every best wish.
Former Sen. Bob Dole received the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, in recognition of his service to the nation as a "soldier, legislator and statesman."