In life, "It is not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood - who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worse, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."
Those words by Teddy Roosevelt speak volumes about Bob Dole, who dared greatly and achieved much. On July 22, Dole celebrates his 80th birthday at the dedication ceremony of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics on the University of Kansas campus. It is appropriate that the institute bearing his name would be located in Kansas, for as Dole has often pointed out, "Anyone who wants to understand me must first understand Russell, Kan. It is my home, where my roots lie, and a constant source of strength."
Dole's life is a remarkable journey that began in Russell in 1923. In 1942, he joined the Army to fight in World War II. In April 1945, as he was fighting the Nazis in the hills of Italy, he was hit by Nazi machine-gun fire as he attempted to help a wounded soldier. He was not expected to live.
But he did live, and he embarked on a political career that would span a half-century, taking him from county attorney to the U.S. Senate to Republican nominee for president of the United States.
Soldier, statesman and patriot, Dole epitomizes what it means to be an American. And while he may have come short of becoming president, another Dole, his wife Elizabeth, the senator from North Carolina, might do just that.
Dole is one of many heroes of the greatest generation that Tom Brokaw chronicled in the national best-selling book by the same name. And there were many others, too many to name, whose stories deserve to be told. It is these nameless but not forgotten soldiers to whom Dole has dedicated much of his considerable energy. That is why so many made their way to Kansas this week: to honor Dole the hero, Dole the statesman, Dole the man, and also to honor the "greatest generation." Typical of Dole's humility, he used the dedication ceremony to recognize Medal of Honor recipients, not himself.
The celebrations began, appropriately, with World War II veterans recounting the war. During the four-day-long event, speakers and guests included Medal of Honor recipients, Navajo code-talkers, members of Doolittle Raiders, Tuskeegee airmen, former prisoners of war and the great-grandson of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.