Elizabeth Dole

Remarks at the 1996 RNC - Aug. 14, 1996

Elizabeth Dole
August 14, 1996— San Diego, California
1996 Republican National Convention
Print friendly

Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you so much. Oh my. Thank you. Thank you so much ladies and gentlemen for that wonderful, warm welcome. And thank you Gov. Wilson for your very kind words of introduction.

Now, you know tradition is that speakers at the Republican National Convention remain at this very imposing podium. But, tonight I'd like to break with tradition. For two reasons. One, I'm going to be speaking to friends and secondly I'm going to be speaking about the man I love and it's just a lot more comfortable for me to do that down here with you.

Now for the last several days a number of men and women have been painting a remarkable portrait of a remarkable man. A man who is the strongest and the most compassionate, most tender person I have ever known. The man who, quite simply is my own personal Rock of Gibraltar.

And tonight I want to put the finishing brush strokes on that portrait if you will. And Bob Dole, if you're watching, let me just warn you, I may be saying some things that you in your modesty would never be willing to talk about.

But I think the people you've been serving all these years in America deserve to know they have the right to know, this is not a time to be silent. This is a defining moment, ladies and gentlemen, in our nation's history

This election is about the vision and the values that will shape America as we move into the next century. It's about the character of the man who will lead us there. Now, Bob Dole, as you know was born in Kansas, in a small town,

Now what do I do?

Is she going to speak, or am I going to speak? I'm not sure. That was a nice surprise.

But let me say that yes, he was born in a small town in Kansas. His parents were poor. In fact at one point, when Bob was a boy, they had to move their family parents and four children into the basement, and rent out their small home upstairs just to make ends meet. But while they were perhaps poor in material things, they were rich in values. Values like honesty, decency, respect, personal responsibility, hard work, love of God, love of family, patriotism – these are the values that led Bob to risk life in battle fields of Italy.

And these are the values that enabled him to sustain over three years in the hospital. Now I didn't know Bob back then, but Pat Lynch did. Pat, stand a moment if you would. Come right up here with me.

Pat Lynch is from Boone, Iowa. Pat was one of Bob's nurses and Percy Jones Hospital in Battle Creek, Mich. Pat has told me about Bob's good humor and how they used to wheel him from ward to ward, to cheer up the other wounded soldiers.

She's also told me that Bob was very patient and that he tapped his inner resources so that he could endure not just day after day but month after month.

Pat's told me that when Bob was totally paralyzed and people thought he wouldn't walk again, he literally willed himself to walk. He was a person of great perseverance, determination and drive. And he recovered fully except for the use of his right arm in the three years at the hospital.

And during that period of time I think Bob's sensitivity to the problems of others certainly was deepened as well because he's been there. He's been through adversity. He's know pain and suffering.

It was at this time in his life that he got to know Dr. Kelikian. Now Kelikian was a great surgeon. Chicago, Illinois. And Dr. Kelikian had fled Armenia, war-torn Armenia, as a young man. Three of his sisters were not so fortunate. He came to the United States with only two dollars and a rug from his homeland under his arm.

And Dr. Kelikian, at that point a young boy, worked on a farm. And the owner of the farm was so impressed with him, that he paid his way through college. And then he went on to medical school, and he became a great surgeon – a master in bone and joint surgery.

And so Bob Dole went to Dr. Kelikian looking for a miracle, because he wanted to be the person he'd been before the war. A great athlete, a person who was on his way to study medicine. Dr. Kelikian performed a number of operations and then he had to administer some tough love.

He had to say to Bob, "You're not going to find a miracle. Now the choice is up to you Bob, you can continue to feel sorry for yourself, or you can get on with your life and make the most of what you do have."

Dr. Kelikian would not take a penny of money for those operations and he did the same for many other young veterans coming back from the war who were not able to afford the medical care that they needed.

So you can imagine how much we cherish the friendship of Dr. Kelikian's widow and her daughter Alice. Thank You.

And certainly Bob has known the struggle to make ends meet. In fact he couldn't have had a college education without the GI Bill.

And so he's gonna protect and preserve and strengthen that safety net, for those who need it. Also he's dedicated his life to making a difference, to making a positive difference for others because of his own experiences, whether it's on the battlefield, on the Senate floor, or whether it's in his personal life, he's going to be making that difference for others.

And you know it was only 12 years ago, that I recall so well Bob coming home from a trip to Kansas, we were sitting in the bedroom talking, and he said "Elizabeth, my plane was late and they were trying to rush me into a meeting out there, and there were these two young people who were waiting outside the door to talk with me, and they were severely disabled. And they were there with their parents.

"Tim and Carla were their names. And he said, Tim said to me 'Sen. Dole, we've found a source of help for people who have a disability such as ours in another state. Can you help us get there?'"

And as Bob was telling me about it, he said, "I can't stop thinking about Tim and Carla. Elizabeth, I've been meaning to start a foundation for people with disabilities for years and I haven't done it yet."

The very same day after, the Dole foundation was up and running and Bob's raised millions of dollars to help people with disabilities.

Tim, Tim, I want to thank you for your courage and your spirit. Thank you Tim for inspiring Bob Dole to start the Dole foundation for people with disabilities. We love you. Thank you.

And I remember about 10 years ago Bob and I were about to celebrate our birthdays, which are about seven days apart in late July, Bob suggested a reverse birthday.

He said, "Elizabeth, let's go to Sarah's Circle," which is a very special place in inner-city Washington that houses and ministers to elderly poor. And he said, "Let's find out what the 35 or 40 residents most need and want and we'll give them the gifts, give them the party."

And so that's what we did, and we've had many wonderful visits there since with cherished friends. And our most recent reverse birthday was just three weeks ago at Sarah's Circle.

And I remember a Thanksgiving, oh probably three or four years ago, when Bob called up and he said, "You know, Elizabeth, I'd like to do something a little different this Thanksgiving."

And he sounded kind of sheepish because, you see, he'd already put the plans in motion. And I said, "Well, Bob, what would you like to do?" And he said, "Well, I've invited 35 young people from some pretty tough parts of Washington and their church sponsors to have Thanksgiving dinner with us."

Well, he'd already reserved some places for us at a restaurant and he'd had them put in some televisions so the kids could watch the Redskins game. When I think of, what touched us so deeply, was after they finished their Thanksgiving meal and they'd finished watching the game, they began to talk about their life stories, and the common thread that ran through so many of those stories was that these kids until very recently had never heard anyone say, I care about you. I care about you.

Ladies and gentlemen, you didn't read about that Thanksgiving dinner in the newspaper or hear about it in the media, because Bob Dole never told anybody about it. He did it from his heart. He wants to make a difference, a positive difference for others, because he cares, because that's who he is.

And I certainly will never forget his last day as majority leader of the United States Senate. I was seated up in the balcony, you know, and I was watching as senator after senator, Democrats and Republicans stood and paid tribute to my husband on the Senate floor.

They talked about his countless legislative achievements, how he led the United States Senate to successfully pass the largest tax cut in the history of the United States of America.

They talked about how he had saved social security. And I just want to quote from a letter. This is Claude Pepper, and he was the champion of seniors and he wrote to Bob, May 11, 1983.

He thanked Bob for his extraordinary contributions, saying, and I quote, "You never lost hope and faith in our accomplishing the immeasurable task of saving Social Security. We could have never produced this result without your skill and sincerest desire to make a meaningful contribution."

That's leadership, ladies and gentlemen.

They also talked about how Bob had led the Senate just last year to save Medicare, increasing spending 62 percent, only to have the White House veto the legislation, provide no other alternative for saving the system except a multi-million dollar add campaign to scare our senior citizens.

They talked about Bob's incredible ability to bring people together and his tremendous sense of humor, and you know, that reminds me of the time I was up for confirmation hearings before one of the committees of the Senate for its secretary of transportation.

And my husband introduced. And you know what he did to me. He sort of did a take-off on Nathan Hale. "I regret that I have but one wife to give for my country's infrastructure."

That's Bob Dole. But above all, these senators, Democrats and Republicans, talked about Bob's character, his honesty, his integrity.

And I remember Sen. Pete Domenici, beautiful speech that you gave, and when you concluded your speech you said, The next majority leader of the United States Senate better know that he better be honest.

He better tell the Senate the truth, because Bob Dole knew of no other way. Remember that, Pete.

And Diane Feinstein, Democrat of California, said Bob Dole's word, listen to this now, Bob Dole's word is his commitment, and his commitment is a matter of honor. "We often disagree on issues," she said, but even when we disagree, I know where I stand with Bob Dole and I know I can trust his word. I can trust his word."

And that's why, ladies and gentlemen, that's why Bob Dole's fellow senators elected him six times to be their leader, because they know he is honest, trustworthy, a man of his word, his word is his bond, and they know he has exceptional leadership skills. And isn't that exactly what we want in the president of the United States.

Thank you. And you see, you see, thank you, these are the people, think of this, these are the people that know him so well, have worked with him day after day, year after year.

They know what his judgment is like under pressure, and that's why they continue to put their faith and trust in him, making him the longest serving Republican leader in Senate history. Eleven years.

Now, I'm also very proud of the fact that the employees of the United States Senate, the waiters, waitresses, others who work there, voted Bob twice, four years apart in two surveys, as the nicest, friendliest of all 100 senators. I'm sorry about that, Pete.

These are employees like Trudy Parker, who is a member of the United States Capitol Police, and Trudy, bless your heart, Trudy was the first person that Bob saw on the way to work every morning while he was in the Senate, and also that final day. I can still see you. I'll remember it forever. You threw your arms around my husband and tears were streaming down your face, and you said, "Elizabeth, everywhere you go, people tell you they love Bob Dole, because he always has a kind word for everyone." Bless you, Trudy. Thanks.

Now, let me just say, I could go on and on sharing stories about this loving husband and father, this caring friend, but please indulge a very proud wife just one final story which neither I nor my 95-year-old mother will ever forget.

When Bob was dating me, he used to go to North Carolina a lot to visit my parents.

And one morning, unbeknownst to me, he left his bedroom and went down where mother was fixing breakfast in the kitchen, and he had a towel over his arm and shoulder that had been disabled in the war.

And he says, "Mrs. Hanford I think you ought to see my problem."

Mother said, "Bob, that is not a problem. It's a badge of honor."

My fellow Americans, my fellow Americans, I believe that in the years to come, future generations will look back to this November and say, here is where Americans earned a badge of efficient government and stronger and safer families.

Here is where we elected the better man who led us to a better American. Because here is where we elected Bob Dole.

God bless you all. Thank you.

Speech from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics-july-dec96-elizabeth_dole_08-14/.