Bob Dole, 96, is spending his time during this outbreak calling friends to ask how they are doing. When a call came in from his office, candidly, I was worried. Did he have the virus? Or was there another problem? No, he was checking on friends. Bob Dole remains a shining light on the hill and a thousand points of light, all at the same time.
It was Senator George McGovern 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 on food, agriculture, and nutrition.
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.
Bob Dole has a heart as big as his beloved State of Kansas. On the call he was most concerned about the impact of the Coronavirus on global hunger. With his special friend George McGovern, Bob Dole has 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 that this office looked like.”
The McGovern-Dole global school feeding program, as it is known, 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 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.
Dole is a great humanitarian who is too modest and understated, like many other WW II veterans, to seek recognition. When it came to nutrition, he 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.
Bob Dole is not just a part of the “Greatest Generation,” he is the Chairman. The call reminds us all of what bipartisan, understated, leadership looked like.
Marshall Matz firstname.lastname@example.org