Biden remembers Dole as ‘master of the Senate’ at National Cathedral

President Biden greets Elizabeth Dole prior to her husband Sen. Bob Dole's (R-Kan.) funeral at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on Friday, December 10, 2021.
Julia Nikhinson

Former Senate majority leader and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole was honored Friday with a tribute ceremony at Washington National Cathedral, which was attended by President Biden and other former congressional colleagues who heralded his legacy of bipartisanship. 

Biden and two other former senators who served with Dole, Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), described a statesman who worked in good faith and sought compromise. The two contrasted the time that Dole spent in the Senate with the polarized nature of the current-day Congress, where hostility between the parties has spiked, and a mob violently attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Biden hailed Dole as “literally the master of the Senate” who “relished a good political fight,” but understood the importance of consensus in democracy.

“We disagreed, but we were never disagreeable with one another. Not one time that I can think of,” Biden said.

Biden cited Dole’s work for veterans and people with disabilities, as well as his efforts to create a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. 

He quoted Dole, who died Sunday at the age of 98, from a Washington Post op-ed published after his death in which the former senator wrote: “I cannot pretend that I have not been a loyal champion for my party, but I always served my country best when I did so first and foremost as an American.”

“He never forgot where he came from and I never forgot what he said about his effort for the King holiday. He said, ‘No first class democracy can treat people like second class citizens,’” Biden said.

“We’re bidding this great American farewell, but we know as long as we keep his spirit alive, as long as we see each other not as enemies but as neighbors and colleagues, as long as we remember that we’re not here to tear down, but to build up, as long as we remember that, then Taps will never sound for Bob Dole,” Biden said.

Dole served in the Senate representing Kansas from 1969 until 1996, when he resigned from his position as majority leader to focus on his ultimately unsuccessful presidential campaign. And before he won election to the Senate, Dole served in the House for eight years starting in 1961.

Before entering Congress, Dole served in World War II and was seriously wounded while trying to save a fellow soldier during combat in Italy. He was later awarded two Purple Hurts and a Bronze Star with an Oak Cluster for his service.

Dole’s funeral service at Washington National Cathedral drew some of the nation’s top dignitaries, including Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Harris, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The day before, Dole laid in state at the Capitol where his legacy is still clearly felt among members of Congress — despite the fact that he served there more than two decades ago. 

Congressional leaders even modified this week’s legislative schedule to accommodate lawmakers attending Friday’s funeral services.

Dole’s daughter, Robin, eulogized her father as “the most generous person I have ever known.”

“He was a giver, not a taker,” Robin Dole said. “He told me he set a personal goal to help at least one person every day of his life.”

“‘I think you’ve met and exceeded your goal,’” Robin Dole recalled telling her father.

A ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington followed Friday morning’s funeral service at Washington National Cathedral.

Roberts credited Dole, who regularly visited with fellow veterans at the memorial after it opened in 2004, with ensuring it came to be.

“Without Bob Dole, there would not be a World War II Memorial,” Roberts said.

Tags Charles Schumer Doug Emhoff Jill Biden Joe Biden Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Pat Roberts

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