Former U.S. Sen. Robert Dole stood on the cusp Wednesday of joining political titans Ronald Reagan, Harry Truman and Gerald Ford as recipients of the highest civilian honor awarded by Congress.
Dole, who displayed keen wit and political grit in a 45-year career of public service, represented Kansas for decades in Washington, D.C. He was the Republican Party’s 1976 vice presidential nominee and the GOP’s 1996 presidential nominee.
On Tuesday, the U.S. House approved presentation to Dole of the Congressional Gold Medal on a bipartisan voice vote. It honors his service as a soldier during World War II, a legislative leader in the House and Senate, and a statesman still active in charitable causes. The Senate previously passed the measure, meaning the resolution moved to President Donald Trump.
“I look forward to President Trump signing this bill so we can honor Senator Dole for his service to Kansas and our nation,” said U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who represents the 2nd District and led the effort with U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. “In Congress, Senator Dole was known for reaching across the aisle, and I know he must be very proud to see this strong showing of unity.”
Roberts said Dole was Kansas’ favorite son and “a friend, mentor and brother to me. He has served our country in countless ways.”
Dole, who turned 94 in July, would follow in footsteps of astronauts, humanitarians, explorers, doctors, actors, entertainers, authors, musicians and other distinguished men and women, including foreign recipients. The list also includes Jackie Robinson, Elie Wiesel, Bob Hope, Rosa Parks, John Glenn, Thomas Edison, Charles Schulz, Shimon Peres, Neil Armstrong, Mary Laskerand Arnold Palmer.
Organizations and groups likewise honored with the medal included Native American code talkers, Selma marchers, the Tuskegee airmen, the “monuments men” and the American Red Cross.
Dole grew up in Russell and was wounded fighting in Italy during World War II. He spent years in and out of hospitals, but didn’t regain full use of his right arm. The experience shaped his advocacy for veterans, including raising money to build the World War II Memorial in Washington. He was a champion of people with disabilities and assisted with the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Senator Bob Dole never forgets where he is from – Russell, Kansas,” said U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, of the 1st District covering western Kansas. “Perhaps that’s what made him so effective, and so beloved by his constituents.”
During House floor debate on House Resolution 3332, U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder said service, sacrifice and statesmanship described a Kansan who never turned away from challenges.
“Senator Dole has always put his country ahead of himself, and he stayed grounded in his strong Kansas roots,” said Yoder, the 3rd District congressman serving Johnson and Wyandotte counties. “He is an inspiration to me.”