JACKSON, Tenn. – Sept. 29, 2005 – Peppering his comments with self-deprecating humor, Bob Dole told those attending Union University’s Ninth Annual Scholarship Banquet that patience and endurance are two keys to overcoming life’s obstacles.
The Sept. 27 event, held at Jackson’s Carl Perkins Civic Center, raised nearly $500,000 for student scholarships.
“It was another remarkable evening,” Union University President David S. Dockery said. “Senator Dole was humorous and engaging. Our guests enjoyed themselves. But most importantly, the students of the university will be the recipients of the generous gifts from our friends – gifts which will ensure that a quality Union education can and will remain affordable and accessible.”
Dole talked about his experience during World War II, when he suffered near-fatal injuries while leading his platoon up an Italian hill. His rehabilitation was lengthy and arduous, but Dole said through it he became a better person.
“In a sense, my whole life before April 14, 1945, was a prologue to the story, just as my life ever since has been shaped by what happened that April morning on an Italian hillside,” Dole said. “I finally realized it was time for me to grow up, forget about what I’d lost and realize what I still had.”
No longer able to depend on his hands and body, Dole had to rely on his head and his heart. He ascended through the political ranks and served his home state of Kansas in the U.S. Senate for nearly 30 years. His presidential campaign in 1996 wasn’t as successful as his Senate races.
“I ran for president in ’96, and the word’s out now, I lost,” Dole told the crowd.
Dole said U.S. veterans and those currently serving in the armed forces appreciate five words more than anything else: “Thank you for your service.”
He used Dwight Eisenhower as an example of what true leadership means. Prior to the D-Day invasion of Europe in 1944, Eisenhower crafted a statement if the operation hadn’t succeeded:
“Our landing has failed and I have withdrawn the troops,” Eisenhower wrote. “My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.”
That last line is a definition of leadership in one sentence, Dole said.
Throughout his hour-long address, Dole’s interjected his humor several times. One of his projects was to compile a book of presidential humor, going all the way back to George Washington.
“I did not know George Washington,” Dole said. “But Sen. (Strom) Thurmond knew George Washington. He was a lot of help to us in the book. He’d been an intern for Jefferson and met Washington.”
On another occasion, he addressed the likelihood of a woman becoming president.
“There will be a woman president one of these days,” he said. “I hope not too soon.”
Union students said Dole was an entertaining speaker.
“I like the speakers who come in here with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of excitement and bring a new perspective in on politics,” junior Shanna Hawkins said. “They make it more lively for those of us who aren’t as interested in politics. It makes it more interesting and makes you want to get involved and learn more.”
Senior Brad Spencer, president of Union’s Student Government Association, gave the invocation prior to Dole’s address.
“It was definitely a real honor to share the stage with Senator Dole,” Spencer said. “He had such an impact on American politics for three decades.”
Spencer also expressed his appreciation to the event’s sponsors and those who attended, people who are responsible for the scholarship money that has helped students like himself.
“It was very humbling to get up there and lead the invocation in front of so many influential people, and people who have had such an influence in my life -- even though I don’t know them – through scholarships,” he said.
Previous keynote speakers for the Scholarship Banquet were George H.W. Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Rudy Giuliani, John Major, Colin Powell, James Baker and Lou Holtz.