Elizabeth Dole

"A Few Good Women" Interview - Nov. 5, 2007

Elizabeth Dole
November 05, 2007
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From the "A Few Good Women" Oral History collection created by Barbara Hackman Franklin. The collection consists primarily of oral history interview transcripts, original tape recordings of the interviews, and photographs and related papers donated by the interviewees documenting high-ranking women working in the Nixon administration. Dole was interviewed by Jean O. Rainey.

JEAN O. RAINEY: It is Monday, November 5, 2007, and I am in the office of Senator Elizabeth Dole. First, Elizabeth, I want to ask you about your family. You grew up in North Carolina.

DOLE: Right. My "family tree" is very much rooted in North Carolina and North Carolina history. I grew up in a wonderful little town, Salisbury--it's about 22,000 people. I like to call it "My rock of Gibraltar". Mother and Dad certainly didn't have a career in mind for me, but I think the values that they instilled in me and the fact that they were such encouragers definitely had an impact on my future career life. I can hear my dad now, saying, "If it's worth doing, it's worth giving it your very best effort." And Mother would say, "You're finishing your homework early. Wouldn't you like to enter that essay contest?" It's the little extras, just being motivated by wonderful parents who gave me every sort of support and love but had no idea of a career in my future. I finished high school in 1954 and college was a given. Then they assumed for me, like most Southern girls of that era, marriage and settling down raising a family.

RAINEY: So then you ended up going to Duke?

DOLE: Right. I applied only to Duke because my precious brother, thirteen years my senior, was a Duke graduate. I finished there in 1958. I found that political science was fascinating, using your interpersonal skills to promote ideas and programs that would make a difference, a positive difference in the quality of people's lives. I became involved in student government in high school as well as at Duke. It's a great education in itself, student government. I ran for freshman class president at Duke and lost. There's a lot you learn in losing, no question. Then, my junior year I ran for student government president and I was elected. At my first town hall monthly assembly, the editor of the student newspaper, the Duke Chronicle, criticized me for an error in parliamentary procedure. I studied Roberts Rules of Order all summer.

I would have been ready for the state legislature, I think, by the fall! And I'll always remember my dad's delight, when he opened the Duke Chronicle during my graduation weekend and discovered that the same editor, and his staff, had named me the student "Leader of the Year."

RAINEY: Wonderful.

DOLE: Those were wonderful days at Duke, and a great education not only academically but mediating between the needs of students, faculty, administration and trustees through my student government involvement. I then had the privilege of serving for 11 years on the Duke Board of Trustees at a later time. They were great years at Duke.

RAINEY: Wonderful. Then it was on to Harvard Law School. How did that happen?

DOLE: Well, actually, I decided to work in Cambridge at the Harvard Law Library and undertook a Master of Arts in Teaching at Harvard. I used to study in the law library and my employers at the Law School - - the Law Librarian and Assistant Law Librarian - - kept encouraging me to go to law school. They were very supportive men who said "Elizabeth, you have the same interests as these men entering law school. You majored in political science at Duke, and you have a strong interest in public policy. Your background just fits. You ought to be in law school like these men instead of working at the law school." I didn't yearn to practice law in a Wall Street law firm, but I saw the value of legal training as background for public service.

RAINEY: Even then you were interested in public service?

DOLE: Absolutely. I think it really goes back to my days both in high school and college when politics and policy were like magnets. For example, I established at Duke, an international student program, and worked on student problems with the chairman of the Judicial Board who happened to be Mississippi Senator John Stennis' daughter. It was not that I started out thinking I am going to have a full-time career, and I want to be here in five years and there in ten years. It unfolded as I moved along. I've always had a heart for the underdog and as I pursued issues about which I felt passionately, I put in a great deal of time and effort. It was from the heart. The next thing I knew I turned a corner and there's another opportunity. So jobs evolved into a career as I moved along, but I never had a blueprint.

RAINEY: There weren't that many women in Harvard Law at that point, were there?

DOLE: No, there were not. In my class, there were 550 and 24 were women. In fact, Professor Barton Leach, my contracts professor, had Ladies Day. Today, of course, women wouldn't accept this, but we did. We knew exactly what day in the semester, and only that day, when Leach was going to call on us. We were told to sit at the front and deliver a poem that reflected our experience at Harvard before he posed his questions. He sat in the back with the men. Of course, it was a terrible teaching method because you knew you wouldn't be called on the rest of the semester.

I found something that I thought you would be interested in, Jean. The poem that we developed is buried somewhere in my files, but I found in my papers another poem which we women wrote when Professor Leach was out sick.

Dear Mr. Leach
We do beseech
That you return real quick.
Since Monday morn'
We've been forlorn
On learning that you were sick.
Chattels and land
Just can't command
Our complete attention.
And deeds and wills
Are bitter pills
Too terrible to mention.
Possession, title
What is right'll
Pale without your guidance. But we confess
That our distress
Is not quite bona fidence.
Tho' we dismay
On Ladies Day
And labor over verse,
Our daily fear
Now makes it clear
The alternative is worse.

RAINEY: Wonderful.

DOLE: Yeah. But that's the kind of thing that was going on then, because women were so rare. Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg also remembers Ladies Day with Professor Leach. And I had a torts professor who only called on women when there was something involving a woman in the case. For example, a woman's pocketbook had been stolen, and as you were reading the case, you'd think, uh oh, we may be called on tomorrow. There were five women in a section, like Professor Leach's class or the torts professor's class. So you'd have five women and about 150 men.

RAINEY: How did you come to be a Deputy to the Special Assistant to the President, Virginia Knauer?

DOLE: Actually I started out in the old Department of Health and Human Services. I had the privilege of working on the first conference in the United States on education of the deaf. I was also taking cases for indigents at night. There's quite a story there. I don't know if you want to hear all of that. There is quite a story about my first case.


DOLE: The District of Columbia was holding night court because of an overload on the courts. I didn't take trial practice when I was at law school, so I was sitting in the arraignment court observing, in order to learn my way around the courtroom. Taking cases for people who can't afford a lawyer was a way to give back. My work during the day was education of the deaf, but at night I wanted to take these cases.

About the third night, one of the detectives sitting nearby said to me, "Oh, no! The judge on the bench tonight is the toughest judge anywhere in the Washington area. His name is Buddy Beard." He had no more said that than Judge Beard looked down at me and said, "Who are you?" I said, "My name is Elizabeth Hanford." And he said, "What are you doing here? I've seen you here three nights." I said, "I'm observing, your honor, so that I can take cases for indigents." And he said, "Miss Hanford, come up here. I have a case for you." "No, I'm not ready," I replied. "I'm just a private citizen and I am observing."

Of course, I had not had trial practice in school. And he said. "Are you a member of the D.C. Bar?'' And I said, "Yes, sir." He said, "Come up here. If you are a member of the D.C. Bar, you're ready." So I went up, and he handed me the information slip. I was to defend a man accused of petting a lion in the National Zoo.

My detective friend said, "You probably don't know where these people are locked up." And I said, "No, I don't." So he took me downstairs under the courtroom. These men obviously had never seen a woman lawyer. I'm walking through the cell block and they're clapping and chanting. It was a little scary, really.

RAINEY: You're so young and pretty, too.

DOLE: One of them suddenly got the idea. I'm saying, "Mr. Marinas, Mr. Marinas," trying to find my defendant, and one of them said, "Hey, man, she's your lawyer!" And did they think that was funny. It was 1966, and apparently they'd never seen a female lawyer. I finally found Mr. Marinas and he was Greek and spoke almost no English. I said, "Mr. Marinas, this is not the most serious matter. I can get you out tonight, but you're going to have to come back and stand trial in three weeks under our system." He said, "No, no! I never come back. I leave. I go to New York." He was going to skip town.

The U.S. Marshal walked up and said, "Miss Hanford, Judge Beard is ready for you." I said, "Well, I'm not ready for him because the defendant doesn't understand." He said, "It's Buddy Beard. You'd better come upstairs." So I went up on the elevator, and all these people surrounded me. They said, "What are you going to do with this case? What are you going to do with this case?" I said, "Well, I can't leave him locked up for three weeks on such a charge, and if I get him out, he's going to leave town and so," I said, "I'm going to go to trial tonight, though I've never seen a trial except on Perry Mason." They all started writing it down, Jean! They were not court personnel. They were reporters. Back then, we had the Evening Star...three papers. I said, "Please don't write this down. I thought you were court personnel."

And they couldn't write fast enough!

So here I am. I've got to have a trial and I really had never seen one except, like I said, on television. So in we went, and I look over at the U.S. Attorney slot and it's Lee Freeman, number one in my class at Harvard, editor of the Harvard Law Review. He's going to prosecute. All I can say is, by the grace of God, I won that case.

In national zoos, there's a statute posted that says you're not to annoy or tease the animals in the zoo. "Without the lion as witness," I asked, "how do you know if the lion was annoyed or teased?!" So they let Marinas out. Lee Freeman was about to have a stroke, and he said, "Your honor, your honor, this man was found in the antelope cage three weeks ago." The judge said, "Well, maybe we'd better send him over to St. Elizabeth's for a week of mental observation."

The next day I was written up in the Washington Post as a "valiant young lawyer defending her client." It was an amazing experience because I was just sitting there as a private citizen. I wasn't Legal Aid.

I was just trying to learn. My next case was armed robbery.

Over at HEW, I got to know the head of the Food and Drug Administration - to get back to your question about how I ended up in the White House Office of Consumer Affairs - - and he said, "The consumer field is just taking off. I know your heart would really be in this." The White House has an Office of Consumer Affairs headed up by Betty Furness." So I went over and interviewed at his suggestion. Les Dix was her Deputy, and Les said, "I'd love to have you come on the legislative staff but we have no slots. If you can get FDA to detail you to the White House, you've got the job."

I went back to HEW and they agreed to do it. I was detailed from FDA and worked there for Betty Furness. When the administration changed, Virginia Knauer was appointed. Virginia and I just hit it off.

RAINEY: You were originally Independent-

DOLE: Yes, that's right. Virginia wanted me to be her deputy. That's how it happened. I took the job that Les Dix had had with Betty as Virginia's deputy. She was one of the greatest mentors that anyone could have. Virginia was wonderful. We're still devoted friends. But that's how I ended up in the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. Those were great years.

RAINEY: Tell me more about that. What sort of things did you do then?

DOLE: We were very much involved in consumer education, and developed guidelines for consumer education K through 12. We promoted those guidelines in the schools across America to help young people become more knowledgeable in financial matters. Frankly, it's an area that still needs to be pursued today. The complexities in the financial world today are vast.

We initiated a number of publications like the interagency Consumer News. Then we added the Consumer Register as a part of Consumer News, a listing of all proposed regulations to make sure consumer input was provided. We succeeded in convincing businesses that it was in their best interest to support nutritional labeling on a voluntary basis as well as unit pricing.

We received an average of 4000 complaints a day, forwarding them to the relevant government agency or to consumer action panels which we established with a number of industries. We had a major appliances consumer action panel, an insurance consumer action panel, an automobile consumer action panel, carpet and rug consumer action panel. Those complaint letters would just pile in. They would be routed to the right places.

I had my first experience testifying before Congress. Virginia wanted me to have the full range of her responsibilities. She was such an unselfish boss. She wanted me to learn and grow and experience everything that she did. I had my first press conference in, of all places, Overland Park, Kansas. Little did I know what Kansas would mean in my future life.

I met often with the business community. And I remember when Virginia went in for surgery and Tillie Fowler, later Congresswoman Fowler, and I were testifying with Virginia. Virginia had to leave to go to the hospital, and I can still see Congressman Dan Flood, of Pennsylvania, putting his hand over the microphone and saying to the rest of the members of the committee, "Are we going to let these kids take over?'' Just like that. These two women. They permitted us to go forward and answer all the questions. But there were so many great learning experiences.

Actually Virginia really had to nudge me out of the nest. She wanted to recommend me for the Federal Trade Commission. I can remember clearly saying, "No, no, Virginia, I love being your deputy. This gives us a chance to help people solve all sorts of problems." She was very effective. But she said, "Elizabeth, you have learned and grown as much as you can in this job. It's time to spread your wings."

Mike Pertschuk, who was the Commerce Committee's Chief Counsel and Staff Director at the time, told me, "Elizabeth, you will need a lot of people to okay this because the next slot on the FTC has been promised to a consumer advocate and you'd be coming out of the Nixon White House." Mayo Thompson, the most recent member, had been appointed from the business community. Warren Magnuson had promised the next appointment confirmed by his Commerce Committee would be a consumer advocate. Virginia said, "Go to Consumer Federation of America's annual meeting and tell them not only what we have accomplished but where we advocated certain consumer positions and didn't prevail." I said, "No, Virginia, I can't do that. That wouldn't be good for you for me to say, well, we tried to get this but we didn't prevail on it in the White House Councils." She said, "Don't worry about me. They need to know."

When I got there, the fact that I had made the trip to Milwaukee to be with them just made all the difference. Yes, they were interested in the issues, but they really appreciated the effort. I learned something about the importance of being on the scene and willing to answer any questions. But it shows so much about Virginia's character.

RAINEY: It does. She was really wonderful. She mentored a lot of people...Lou Engman and others.

DOLE: Yes, Lou and I had been in law school together. I brought him onto our team. Also, Jim Loken, who'd been on Harvard's Law Review, a law school friend of mine. So we were loading up the office with Harvard Law School graduates at that point. Virginia played a major role in my life, and in so many others. I think it's important that professional women have their doors open to younger women, to share experiences, answer questions and provide counsel.

RAINEY: At the Federal Trade Commission, what did you like most and least about being at the Commission?

DOLE: I relished the opportunity to help those without a voice, and I was the only woman among the commissioners, but I never thought of myself in that way and they didn't either. I was just one of the professionals. We worked together so well. Of course, there was the consumer side as well as the anti-trust side. I held regular seminars for women at the FTC. As we enforced the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, we developed educational ads and I worked with American Women in Radio and Television to vigorously promote them.

Through seminars for women, we tried to keep a special focus on how we could help women. My career almost parallels this phase of the women's movement because when I started out, there were so few women in policy-making positions. Barbara Franklin and I worked with other women to launch Executive Women in Government, an organization which is still thriving today. There were so few women in policy positions that it helped to relate to each other and also we could help those younger women coming behind who wanted to follow our footsteps into public service. We could show them shortcuts along the way or maybe help them to avoid a few pitfalls.

And one of my proudest moments, came in leading the charge to overturn an old common-law rule that posed dangers to consumers who bought on credit - and this especially affected the poor and the disadvantaged. It was called the "holder in due course" doctrine, and it took away their only recourse against schlock merchants who refused to honor their contracts. You see, Jean, when the consumer purchased an item on credit, the merchant was allowed to sell the note to someone else. This made it impossible for the consumer to withhold payment in the event of a faulty product. The seller had no incentive to honor the warranty or take care of the problem. But our decision changed all of that by requiring that financial agreements include a written statement to protect the consumer against the original seller.

Case by case, we worked through a lot of issues that were important in that day. My consumer protection background and legal background certainly were helpful. I remember one week that was a little tough because I was at the regular commission meeting on Tuesday and I was being married on Saturday. And I still see young people in my office following suit. "Don't you need to get home and plan for the wedding?" "No, no, I'm fine." So they stay here until almost the day before. I can't fuss too much because I did the same thing.

RAINEY: When did you become a Republican officially?

DOLE: 1972.

RAINEY: When and how did you meet Bob Dole?

DOLE: Virginia wanted to go up to Capitol Hill to talk to the Chairman of the Republican National Committee about having a consumer plank in the platform for the 1972 Convention. So we went to Senator Bob Dole's office. He was then the Chairman of the Committee. We were seated there in his office. He was over on the Senate floor. So suddenly the door opens and he walks in. I can remember looking up at him and thinking "My, he's a good looking guy." And he says he wrote my name on the back of his blotter after we left.

Well, he was traveling for the GOP, approximately 500,000 miles. The next time we spoke was the opening of the Republican headquarters in Washington. Then, at the convention, in 1972, in Miami, I passed him in the hall. We chatted and had a good visit. About three weeks later, he called and we talked for about forty minutes. We had so many mutual friends and mutual interests. It was an animated conversation.

At the end, he said, "Goodbye." He called back a couple of weeks later. Again, a great conversation, and then he said, "Maybe we could have dinner sometime." I said, "That would be very nice." And he said, "Goodbye." It took him three calls to set the dinner date. He was a little shy. I've looked back on that many times and thought not only was Virginia a mentor but she literally ended up being a matchmaker as well!

On the day Bob came to pick me up for that dinner, there had been a little article in the Washington Post about me. The last sentence was, "She is an Independent." I didn't want him to read it. Here he is, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. So I said, "Come on. We're going to be late for dinner." "No, no, no, I want to read this," he said. As he read the story, I can still hear him saying, "You're a what?" when he got to the last line. I can hear it like it was yesterday.

RAINEY: You managed to overcome that. You've held two different Cabinet posts, first as Secretary of Transportation and later as Secretary of Labor. In which position do you think you accomplished most?

DOLE: Let me first say, from 1981 to 1983, I served as Assistant to the President for Public Liaison before going to Transportation. My responsibility was to seek input for President Reagan's proposed policies from the business community, labor, religious organizations, women and others. Once decisions were made, it was my job to line up support. I held 2000 organizational meetings, many with the President.

The joy of public service was at its height as Secretary of Transportation because I chose safety as my major area of emphasis. What could be more important than trying to save lives and prevent crippling, disabling injuries, and I had a great team who shared my passion. I was privileged to serve as the first female Secretary and the first woman to serve as a departmental head of a branch of our armed forces, the United States Coast Guard, which was then located within the Transportation Department. I looked for areas that had just been sitting around for a long time. Drinking and drug tests for employees after a railroad accident had been unresolved for seven years. We completed that rule, and it was upheld by the courts. We were the first civilian department to undertake random drug testing for senior employees and for 30,000 of our 100,000 workforce involved in security and safety positions. That was a bit revolutionary at the time. I can remember my general counsel saying people are going to rebel against this. I said, "Well, what could be more important? If you're involved in a safety or security job, like railroad inspector or air traffic controller, with thousands of people's lives at stake, it's critical that the public be assured you're not under the influence of alcohol and that you're not on drugs." So we got it done.

I am most proud of Rule 208 which had been kicking around the government, unresolved for 20 years. It had gone all the way to the Supreme Court and was remanded on my watch because airbags had not been sufficiently reviewed. We went out and gathered new accident data through hearings. I said we're going to do this in seven months. I remember it was a July date- July 11, 1984-- when we were going to have this done. This rule I am very proud of, I have to admit, because thousands of lives have been saved. It totally changed the climate for automotive safety in America. There was no state that had a safety belt law. The safety belts were in cars but people weren't using them. Only about 14 percent usage.

So we crafted it to spawn a competition between the insurance companies who wanted airbags and the automobile companies who wanted safety belt laws. I wanted both, because I knew to prevent the most accidents, you've got to have your seatbelt on, but you also need that airbag for front and front angular crashes. So we crafted the rule that if within two years two-thirds of the population of the United States had not been covered with state safety belt laws that met our high Federal criteria- and that was the key-- then we would phase in passive restraints over a four-year period, with particular emphasis on airbags.

Every state now but New Hampshire has a safety belt law. And we got the airbags. So that's how it all started. In fact, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety are having an event on December '61 to give me their Lifetime Achievement Award for Safety because of my work on airbags in cars, safety belt laws, and vigorous support of the Age 21 drinking law.

RAINEY: That's wonderful.

DOLE: But that's the kind of thing that makes it so worthwhile when you can see the direct results in terms of people not crashing through the windshield and ending up paraplegic or losing their lives.

Can you believe that we had been through airline deregulation and the handbook for airline inspectors had not been changed in twenty-eight years! We took care of that!

We improved cabin safety in airplanes. In fact, I established a blue ribbon task force that looked at every mode of transportation, to determine what could be done to improve safety. With the airlines, we required low level lights to enable evacuation from a smoke-filled cabin; smoke detectors in the lavatories; and less flammable seats.

Ronald Reagan was receptive to regulation in the safety area, but most of the Cabinet had no idea what an airbag car looked like. We had to search everywhere to find one to put on the White House lawn for the President and the Cabinet to see.

RAINEY: Not much different from other cars.

DOLE: Yes, and consumers then had to be sold on this because many thought the airbag would go off if you crossed the railroad tracks. I had to sell the President and the Cabinet. It was a massive selling job. I call it the "trifecta". By achieving the installation of airbags in cars and safety belt laws through Rule 208 and pressing hard for the Age 21 drinking law and its signing by President Reagan, it's estimated that over 225,000 lives have been saved through 2007. This is the joy of public service.

And a major three-year challenge was overseeing the sale of the government's freight railroad, Conrail. After months of hard work and Congressional testimony, we succeeded in the largest initial industrial stock offering in U.S. history and the two billion dollars helped to reduce the deficit. We received a public thank you from the Coalition for Privatization comprised of hundreds of private sector groups. Best of all, a scholarship was announced to allow a student from my adopted school, Hine Junior High, to attend George Mason University.

Oh, and another three year endeavor was getting National and Dulles Airports off the Federal dole. My husband said it couldn't be done-- it had been tried eight times since 1949, and never got out of committee in the House or the Senate. Those words were like throwing down the gauntlet! We wanted to move the airports out of the government so they could get revenue bonds to build a big beautiful new airport for the gateway to the nation's capital, and double the size of Dulles - - which was desperately needed.

RAINEY: I didn't know that.

DOLE: With my great team at DOT, we figured out that a coalition would be key. It wouldn't just be DOT sending up legislation yet again. No, we got the CEO's of the airlines. We got the Governor of Virginia. We got the Mayor of DC, and while it took three years of persuasion, mingling appeals to reason with old-fashioned horse-trading, we got the legislation passed and the results are evident.

And, we worked to resuscitate a historic jewel, Washington's Union Station, which was then no more than a black hole, closed for over five years. The Congress had given up on Union Station. But we went to work to restore it. After all, it was a historic landmark. And when it reopened in 1988, it became a magnet for visitors - it has dozens of shops, restaurants and theaters - - and it's a first-class transportation center. It's really been wall-to-wall people ever since it was completed.

A major initiative at the Labor Department was settling a very, very, bitter coal strike. I visited the coal fields in Southwest Virginia and saw the strife that was tearing families and communities apart. I asked Rich Trumka, who was President of the United Mine Workers, and Paul Douglas, the President of Pittston Coal Company, to come to my office. These men were not talking to each other, and efforts at mediation hadn't worked at all.

My mother, interestingly enough, in hearing of this, said, "You know, when people break bread together, sometimes it helps to warm things up." I kept that in mind. When Rich Trumka asked for a second cup of coffee, I said, "Rich, it's about noon-time. Would you all like to just step next door? We can go into my little private dining room, have a sandwich and talk there." I had some white wine, Jean, and I had them toast to the resolution of this bitter coal strike. And these two men who hadn't even been speaking to each other, what could they do? I had my glass in the air!

I said, "If I can find a super-mediator who is acceptable to both of you, will you agree to further mediation and that I'll be the spokesperson so that you're not going out with different stories?" They agreed, but of course, none of us were sure I could find a person suitable to both parties, but Bill Usery, a former Secretary of Labor, proved to be acceptable to both sides and all through the Christmas holidays, right up to New Year's Eve, negotiations were underway. On New Year's Eve, the strike was settled. Rich and I are still friends today after going through that grueling process.

And also at Labor, I worked to improve the skills of America's workforce through numerous initiatives; took to the bully pulpit after an investigation documented the presence of corporate "glass ceilings"; established, with the help of the AFL-CIO, a construction training center in Warsaw, as Poland broke free of communism, and made safety of our workers a top priority. For example, we sent teams of inspectors to uncover violations of the child labor laws.

So those are the joys of public service, again. Each position had its own challenges. So it's hard to say which was more rewarding. I was at Transportation five years, and only two years at Labor when the Red Cross came up.

RAINEY: How did that happen?

DOLE: Individuals came to visit to share that they were looking for a president and thought my background, interests and passion for helping those in need, would fit the goals of the Red Cross. They were willing to wait a while to give me a chance to complete initiatives at DOL. I was definitely attracted to this mission field. I remembered my mother was a volunteer in World War II with the Red Cross.

Many functions at the Red Cross were in great need of modernization. It was a very challenging job. The American Red Cross is larger than half the Fortune 500 companies. We undertook "disaster revitalization", which was a three-year upgrading of the disaster relief operations. We had only 3,000 people then who were handling the national disaster work. We increased the number to 21,000. We set up a Disaster Operations Center that never shuts down so that, around-the clock, they are working with the weather people, working with the press, and moving equipment and personnel where needed. We warehoused equipment in areas most likely to get hit, for example, tornado alley in the Midwest, or hurricanes in coastal states, like my North Carolina.

And, no chapter had ever been re-chartered in the history of the Red Cross. So we established a new field structure built around coalitions at the state level, rather than operating chapter by individual chapter. In the process, we challenged all chapters to meet certain standards or lose their charter. They have to meet high standards every five years now.

But the most ambitious project in Red Cross history was blood safety, a total and complete overhaul of the way Red Cross collects, tests, and distributes half of America's blood supply. It took seven years and $287 million dollars. It included the creation of the world's largest blood information database, the establishment of a first-class quality assurance system. It replaced fifty-three aging and semi-independent labs with nine cutting edge national testing labs; and it also replaced twenty-eight different computer systems with a single next-generation computer which linked all Red Cross blood operations.

The very decentralized system I found at the Red Cross was under FDA regulation and urgently needed centralization with national standard operating procedures. It was a massive thing.

Another challenge was Armed Forces Emergency Services. The Red Cross then was providing about 4,000 communications a day to armed services overseas - - emergency messaging. But it was being done through 145 stations on military installations. We shut those down and established two case management centers using the latest technology.

We started Disaster Mental Health Services. Psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses and others in this area took Red Cross disaster training and volunteered to provide mental health assistance for victims of disasters and their families, as well as Red Cross workers. When I visited Ground Zero, in New York, I found myself looking at three parts of my life. There was the Coast Guard who had been under the DOT when I was Secretary, guarding the harbor.

And then the DOL workers were there - - Labor Department. And then in a building nearby, was the American Red Cross. All at Ground Zero - - trying to help the victims of that horrible disaster.

RAINEY: Now, when did Bob run for the presidency?

DOLE: He actually ran three times. The most recent was when he received the nomination in 1996. Of course, each time I was helping him. I remember some of the women's groups when I left DOT. I had been there five years, the longest serving Secretary, but some questioned my leaving, "to be the good little wife." No, this was my choice. What we women have worked for- to decide what's best for us and our families. I wouldn't have wanted to miss out on one of the high points of my husband's life. I can't imagine saying "Good luck, goodbye, I'll see you when it's over!" You grow and learn when you're out there with your own airplane and your own staff handling the issues, meeting the press, supporting the candidate. You may not be paid for it, but it's a great career experience. So I said, "It's a matter of choice, not a matter of having to do it at all. It's what I want to do."

RAINEY: You ran for the presidency in 1999, right?

DOLE: That's right, yes. I wanted to stay at the Red Cross to complete the blood program. It was January 15th, I think, when I left the Red Cross. I had no political organization. We were non-partisan at the Red Cross. I didn't know the party of half the people around me. So you start out from scratch. You've got to build a political organization and a fundraising operation. Now, we had great fundraising at the Red Cross. We raised about $3.4 billion while I was there-- and 92 cents of every dollar spent went to programs and services- but they weren't people you could transfer outside the Red Cross to the political world. It's very non-partisan. So I definitely should have started earlier. By that time, George Bush had pretty much vacuumed up the money.

The year was great in terms of huge crowds. As I talked about the joy of leadership- empowering people to believe in themselves, that they can make a difference- I could see women in the audience sit up a little straighter. We had women who came to the Iowa straw poll who were Democrats, who were Republicans, who were Independents. They'd bring their kids, their grandchildren and travel across the state to do something they'd never done before. So we attracted a lot of people who had never been involved in politics. I came in third in the Iowa straw poll, beat Al Gore in every poll that year, and came in second to George Bush in just about every poll.

But the problem was money because you just have to start earlier. I withdrew not long after the straw poll and that made a lot of people feel like, oh don't do this. The crowds were huge and things were going so well. We'd done really well in the straw poll, and we had a good organization in Iowa. New Hampshire was looking good. But the problem was that George Bush had $40 million cash on hand, and Forbes had unlimited funds, his own personal funds. I had attended over seventy fundraising events, but I would have been outspent 80-1. You just have to start early to raise the funds.

RAINEY: It would have made a big difference if you had.

DOLE: Oh yes, and to have the organization. Looking back on it, I'm glad I established the Exploratory Committee. I think it moved the ball forward for women. And I was pleased with our results. But I could see that going forward they were going to start running their ads the week I dropped out, running their television ads, both Forbes and Bush. So the money was just not going to be there to be able to compete. But we had the crowds and we had the excitement and the enthusiasm of men and women. Men were very supportive.

RAINEY: So when did you run for the Senate seat that you now hold?

DOLE: I was elected in 2002, so it was 2001. This was something that, again, was not in a blueprint. Bob had been the one in politics. All of a sudden, I'm hearing from Bill Frist and I'm hearing from Karl Rove. They've got numbers that really look good. Gradually I began to think about it, but we weren't certain whether Jesse Helms was going to run or not. The day came when he announced he was definitely not going to run and I had to make up my mind. Once again, public service was calling me, and I decided to run.

Erskine Bowles announced shortly after I did that he was going to run. He had been President Clinton's Chief of Staff and head of the Small Business Administration. I traveled all the hundred counties of North Carolina, and it was really a very enjoyable experience. Of course, there are days that are not all that much fun. Campaigning is hard work, no question. But we won by about 9 points and the Senate is another great mission field.

I campaigned for a tobacco quota buyout, an issue of tremendous importance to North Carolina, as we are the largest grower of tobacco. It had been attempted for years without success. It really was a legislative miracle, and it infused $4 billion dollars into Eastern North Carolina.

The BRAC round was coming up. You always wonder with a base closure, oh!, my goodness, what's going to happen because we've got a lot of military bases in North Carolina. So we worked hard with the Secretary of Defense, with Tony Principi who was head of the BRAC Commission and all of his commissioners, and people from North Carolina, the Governor's office and community leaders. We were all working hard to make sure we didn't lose any bases. We actually gained 9,000 employees at Fort Bragg. So we came through with flying colors.

My maiden speech in the Senate focused on hunger and my belief that this tragedy can be eliminated in America. I often quoted the Washington Post's David Broder, that "America has some problems that seem to defy solution. This one does not. It just needs caring people and a caring government, working together." We formed a bipartisan Hunger Caucus and I successfully sponsored needed legislation, such as a tax credit for transporting food from farms, and retail and wholesale establishments to food pantries and soup kitchens for the needy.

And, working on trade issues is vital to North Carolina. I can remember a weekend where the White House and I were back and forth all weekend. I was not going to support that particular trade agreement unless they fixed some problems it created for our North Carolina manufacturers. Now, we're working on immigration issues.

The immigration issue has been major. People care not only about securing the borders but enforcing the laws. I have been working with the sheriffs in our 100 counties on a very specific part of that, which is people who self-identify themselves because of their criminal activity, whether it's drug related, gang related, drunk driving that's killed people in North Carolina. I have met with the sheriffs. My staff has outreached to all one hundred. I've met personally with probably half of them in meetings across the state. We're working with ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement at Homeland Security, and the sheriffs to develop a statewide plan that will give the sheriffs the tools they need to enforce the laws where illegal aliens have committed crimes. We just announced the statewide plan. So if illegal aliens are considering illegal acts, criminal acts, they'd better not come to North Carolina because our sheriffs are going to have the enforcement tools. That's been a joy to work on because if people don't feel safe and secure in their homes, nothing else really matters. So, again, it's a safety issue, a community issue.

So there are tons of challenges, and you're dealing with the universe here in the Senate. You can find those areas, again, where you can make a real difference that are so inspiring. Your whole team gets involved because they feel the passion, too. So in that sense, it's the same as running an executive department where you are looking for those areas where you can really make a difference.

RAINEY: So you'll have to run again in 2008, right?

DOLE: Yes, I'm up this cycle.

RAINEY: Dare I ask you how Bush's popularity rating is going to affect you?

DOLE: It's not helpful. It's not helpful because the numbers are very low right now.

RAINEY: What competition do you have?

DOLE: Actually there are three who are running in the Democratic primary. It's all just happened in early November. For a long time they were not coming up with an opponent-- a man named Jim Neal who is an investment banker and lives in Chapel Hill. Then there's a man named Hendrix who is a graphic artist and a veteran, and Kay Hagan who is Co-Chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the State Senate. So those three and they have until early February to file so there may be even more battling it out in the primary. May is the date of the primary and then we go into the general election. So it's really just about a year away. It's hard to believe.

RAINEY: Looking back, what advice would you give to young women of today about career choices and expectations?

DOLE: Well, I think young women today have real opportunities. With the kind of education they're getting and with the computer and their knowledge of computers and so much more information, they have great opportunities. I think a lot of glass ceilings have been broken over these last 30 or 40 years that helped to pave the way. I would say that what they need to do is find that which they feel passionately about, because when you're working on something that you really care about- it's from the heart- it means you put the energy and the time into it and it drives you forward. You're putting so much effort into it because you care.

My mother passed away when she was almost 103. Isn't that amazing? She was as alert as she could be to the end. You think about just looking back over your life at that point, and the question is not how much money or honors or any of that. It's "What did I stand for? What did I stand for? Did I make a difference, a positive difference for people" because that's what, to me, this life is all about. Public service really does give you a great opportunity to give back, but so does medicine, so do many other areas, and I think young people just have to find what it is that turns them on, that really gives them that spirit and passion and love of what they're doing because you spend a lot of hours at it.

RAINEY: You've received many honors and awards. Which of them have meant the most to you?

DOLE: Well, I think those related to safety because I do feel that's a place where it's so clear that education is needed, for example, that people have got to fasten the safety belt. There are so many ways you can make a difference in the safety arena, and so I appreciate any time that the past years are recognized in that respect. Receiving the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety honor in December, I appreciate a lot, because it's the automotive and safety people. I think Consumer Federation of America is on that board, a lot of insurance companies, Allstate, others who remember our Rule 208 and all the struggle of trying to get that in place so you'd get both airbags and state safety belt laws. I appreciated being named North Carolinian of the Year by the North Carolina Press Association, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women in State Government. Of course, when you're speaking to young people on college campuses, or receiving an honorary degree and the opportunity to give the commencement address, that is something you appreciate because it's a chance to reach out to the next generation and try to inspire them, share experiences.

RAINEY: When Barbara Franklin was in the White House, you were already working for Virginia Knauer. Is that correct?

DOLE: Right. It's interesting because Barbara and I had sort of similar experiences along the way. She was at Harvard Business School, and I was at Harvard Law School. We both worked in the White House. She was on the Consumer Products Safety Commission and I had the Federal Trade Commission. We both had the Cabinet experience. She's done such great things in the business world. Her work on corporate boards and her counseling. She's got a great career in many respects.

When she was at the White House, that was really the first effort to try to bring a lot more women into Federal government. I think she ended up tripling the number of women in top positions in government.

RAINEY: She did, and then it quadrupled.

DOLE: Great. Great. You see back in those days there really were not many women to even compare notes, to sort of be a network where you could discuss issues that impacted you. I think this is where Executive Women in Government provided a formal structure both to share experiences and then to help women who want to follow. Margaret Chase Smith actually did that for me. She encouraged me to go to law school.

RAINEY: Did she?

DOLE: Yes. I was working then for Senator Jordan from North Carolina. It was a summer job back in about 1963. Her office was near his, and I went down to visit. She was so gracious. "Oh, please, come right in." She spent an hour with me. I was just a young Duke graduate. She said, "You really ought to think about law school. Women need that graduate experience." So I think we today need to have our doors open to younger women. We need to let them know they're welcome to share experiences.

RAINEY: What have we not talked about that you would like to talk about?

DOLE: We've pretty well covered the waterfront in terms of the career positions. I think, along the way, volunteering is so important. I did my first year at Red Cross as a volunteer to encourage volunteerism and show my respect for our volunteers. We had 32,000 volunteers and there could not have been a Red Cross without them.

Also, I might add, when I got to DOT, I asked how many women..., this was in 1983, how many women are in this department? There were 19 percent female. That's 1983. I then asked, "Now, when the department was established in 1967, how many women were there?" "18.5 percent." They had come up half a percentage point from 1967 to 1983. It was a male bastion. So we put together a 10-point women's program to try to help women move up the ranks, move into managerial positions, the developmental programs, the training, the rotational assignments. If you were at the Federal Railroad Administration, then you go over to the FAA or the Federal Highway Administration, but you broaden your horizons. We were able to get it up 4 percentage points, which doesn't sound like a lot, but when you've got 100,000 in the workforce it was a lot of women. Every now and then, going through an airport - this has happened three times - - a woman will call after me and say, "Mrs. Dole, I just wanted you to know I'm the manager of this airport now and it's because I was in the women's program at DOT." So that warms my heart.

It really was a male bastion. It was almost all male oriented at the time that I was there, but I didn't think of it that way. I just started doing the work. We did the same thing at the Department of Labor. Sixty-two percent of those that I recommended to President Bush for senior appointments were women and minorities. He did appoint them. We had the same kind of programs to help them advance.

Then we did it again at the Red Cross. One program I particularly liked at Red Cross was our apprenticeship. Every person, myself and all my senior team, had apprentices. These were young people, women and minorities - - with real potential and they could go anywhere we went, travel with us, sit in on any meeting. I had two young African American women, and I remember when we went to Atlanta to see Coretta Scott King, they went with me. They were just part of anything I did. But, again, rotational assignments, providing a certain amount of funds for women to go to developmental programs, apprenticeships were all very effective. Of course, at Red Cross there had been no female president since Clara Barton. So it was 1881 to 1991. Isn't that amazing? You would think you'd find a number of women. They were involved in other areas but not president of the organization.

You know, Jean, I have always felt a drive to try to help women reach their full potential. I think there has been a lot of progress because of the women who came along so early, helping to break glass ceilings in noble professions, public service and politics.

RAINEY: That's great. Thank you.

DOLE: You bet. You bet. We'll continue to do it.

Interview from https://libraries.psu.edu/about/collections/few-good-women/elizabeth-dole-interview-transcript.