JACKSON, Tenn. – Aug. 29, 2005 – He was a second lieutenant in World War II and was leading his platoon up Hill 913 in Italy. But the Germans were deeply entrenched, and Bob Dole and his men faced a deluge of enemy fire as they climbed.
Suddenly, Dole felt something tear into his back behind his right shoulder.
“As the mortar round, exploding shell, or machine gun blast – whatever it was, I’ll never know – ripped into my body, I recoiled, lifted off the ground a bit, twisted in the air, and fell face down in the dirt,” Dole wrote in his book, “One Soldier’s Story.”
Dole’s injuries were serious, and almost lethal. His recovery was long, arduous and incomplete. But despite the physical limitations that remained from his injuries, Dole made the most of his life, becoming a U.S. Senator and a presidential candidate in the process.
On Sept. 27, he’ll bring his story to Jackson as the keynote speaker for Union University’s Ninth Annual Scholarship Banquet at Jackson’s Carl Perkins Civic Center. With less than a month left until the event, Union is making final preparations for Dole’s coming.
“I think Bob Dole is someone who has been present at and created history over the past 50 years,” said Sean Evans, a political science professor at Union. “I think he’s got something to say that would be of interest to everyone. He’s going to come at things from a particular point of view, but he’s also someone who’s in that senior statesman role and who’s willing to step back and look at the big picture.”
Most of the tables for this year’s event have been reserved, but a few remain for interested sponsors. Tables are reserved at levels ranging from $1,000 to $15,000, and individual seats for the dinner are available for $125. Balcony seating without dinner is $25. The annual Scholarship Banquet has generated about $3 million for student scholarships at Union University since 1997.
This year’s lead sponsors include BancorpSouth, Carl and Alice Kirkland, Porter Cable/Delta & DeVilbiss Air Power Company, Schilling Enterprises and White Investments LLC (Roy L. White, president and chief executive officer). Premier sponsors include FirstBank, Benny and Norma Fesmire, Jack and Zan Holmes, The Jackson Sun, Jack and Faye Porter, Mike and Trish Weeks, Northwestern Mutual Financial Network/Rod and Amy Parker, West Tennessee Healthcare and an anonymous donor.
“We’re very grateful for our lead and premier sponsors,” said Union President David Dockery. “They are the ones who make it such a great night for everybody else.”
Dockery praises Dole’s service and sacrifice during World War II, calling him both a national leader for four decades and a model of public service.
“Dole’s background and experience will make for an enjoyable evening,” Dockery said.
In his book, Dole details the difficult years he spent recovering from his war injuries – injuries which left him with limited use of his right arm.
“On the morning of April 14, 1945, I could raise my right hand high in the air and motion the men in my platoon to follow me,” Dole wrote. “It’s been more than sixty years since that morning, and I’ve not raised my right hand over my head since.”
After the war and his rehabilitation, Dole went to law school before entering politics. He won a U.S. Senate seat in 1968, and in 1976 was the Republican vice presidential candidate. He served as chairman of the Republican National Committee and in 1985 became the Senate Majority Leader. He provided leadership to the Republicans in the Senate until he became the party’s presidential candidate in 1996.
“He’s someone who represents the epitome of what a Senator should be,” Evans said. “Bob Dole came in during the 1960s as one of the hard-charging conservatives. But he ended up as the establishment. He’s what you look to if you wanted something done. Bob Dole was someone who was always a partisan, but always believed that you have to step beyond party at times and do what’s right for the American people.”
Evans also pointed to Dole’s wit and sense of humor.
“He’s a very entertaining personality,” Evans said. “It’s not a vaudeville show, but I have a feeling people will be very entertained by his presentation.”
For ticket information, including table sponsorships and individual balcony seating, contact Union’s Office of University Relations at (731) 661-5050.