On another Dec. 7, the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 led to the United States entering World War II, upending countless lives before the nation beat first Germany and then Japan.
Young men across the country dropped what they were doing — leaving farms, schools and jobs to join the military to defend the United States of America.
One of those young men was Robert Dole of Kansas. He had enlisted in the Army Reserve and was called to active duty in 1943.
A lieutenant in the 10th Mountain Division, he took the resiliency developed during a hardscrabble Depression childhood to the battlefield. Badly wounded in Italy just before the war in Europe ended, Dole was left on the battlefield for nine hours before medics could reach him. He went home in a body cast to endure more than three years of surgeries, treatment and hard-fought recuperation. He never regained full use of his right arm.
Despite the wounds that plagued him all his life, Dole became a member of Congress, a U.S. senator, vice presidential candidate and, eventually, his party’s choice for president in 1996.
Dole died Sunday at 98.
His life of public service is a lesson to all of us in this time in which too many leaders value party over country, sizzle over substance and refuse to make the necessary compromises to fight the challenges of this singular time.
Make no mistake, Bob Dole was a conservative Republican — he defended Nixon so vigorously he got the nickname as a “hatchet” man. Unlike many Republicans of his generation, Dole openly supported former President Donald Trump. Yet the senator from Russell, Kan., throughout his political life remained committed to the notion that governing the United States was more than seizing — and keeping — political power.
To him and others of that “Greatest Generation” forged in the Depression and World War II, governing meant the coming together of various perspectives to develop policy that would serve the country and its people, not just the politicians. Dole was an adult; he understood compromise was the way forward if the nation were to prosper and grow.
Elected to Congress in 1961, Dole became a U.S. senator eight years later, moving into leadership, serving as both minority and majority leader in the Senate — a position he left to run unsuccessfully for president in 1996.
As a leader of the Senate, Dole believed government needed to get things done; that it was the job of Congress to pass legislation, working with the president and the opposition party to do the work of the American people. Governing was not about winning the next election but about meeting the current challenge.
Whether in the majority or minority, Dole wanted to solve problems. Despite his conservatism, Dole supported civil rights legislation in the 1960s and helped expand food stamp coverage. He helped save Social Security and worked for passage of the Americans with Disability Act. A serious man with a record of accomplishment, Dole also had a wicked sense of humor.
For President Joe Biden, Dole was a Senate colleague and a member of the opposition but also a friend. It’s the sort of bipartisan friendship that seems rarer in today’s Washington, D.C. Biden had this to say about his friend’s passing — “Bob was a man to be admired by Americans. He had an unerring sense of integrity and honor. May God bless him, and may our nation draw upon his legacy of decency, dignity, good humor and patriotism for all time.”
For all time, and right now, the Dole legacy is one this nation needs.