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Opinion: My Bob Dole

It was Senator George McGovern, D-S.D., who brought me from South Dakota in 1973 to serve as Counsel to the Select Committee on Nutrition but I wound up serving both Senator McGovern and Senator Bob Dole, R-Kan., on food, agriculture, and nutrition. (I suspect that could not happen today.) 


Bob Dole was Chair of the Republican National Committee during the 1972 Nixon-McGovern presidential campaign and as such Dole frequently took the lead in attacking McGovern, the Democratic nominee. But they were both WW II veterans from the Midwest and after the ’72 campaign they worked together on behalf of the hungry here at home and around the world. 


The historian, Jon Meacham, writing about Roosevelt and Churchill, said “There is almost always a practical element in a politician’s connection to others, particularly to other politicians.” I suspect that was true of Dole and McGovern, but it clearly became a genuine friendship. They defended each other to their respective political bases and enjoyed each other. 


Bob Dole had a heart as big as his beloved State of Kansas. With his special friend George McGovern, Bob Dole helped to feed literally millions of people around the world. They worked together to support the price of wheat, but also to reform the food stamp program, child nutrition programs and create the WIC program. Then after they left the Senate, working with President Clinton, they created the global school lunch program that now feeds millions of children in the poorest areas of the world. I still remember Dole turning to McGovern in the Oval Office, and saying, “George, I was always wondering what this office looked like.”   


The McGovern-Dole global school feeding program (Dole-McGovern in Kansas) attracts girls to school providing them with an education that changes their lives. Parents allow their daughters to attend school for the meal but the education changes everything. Studies have proven that when a girl is educated they get married later, have few fewer children and a brighter economic future.  


Dole also worked across the aisle to support the Americans with Disabilities Act, a major civil rights bill. It was Bob Dole’s idea to name the Health and Human Services building after Senator Hubert Humphrey, D-Minn. 


Dole was a great humanitarian who was too modest and understated, like many other WW II veterans, to seek recognition. When it came to nutrition, his was quick to say that he just followed McGovern’s lead. But that was not true. Bob Dole was and remains a profile in courage.


Rest in peace, Bob Dole. You deserve it. 

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