This Memorial Day made me, as everyone else, think of all the veterans whom we lost. It also makes me think of all the veterans who are still very much alive and who continue to deserve our thanks for their service.
But I couldn't help thinking of one veteran in particular. I had a wonderful opportunity in April to be a guest speaker at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. The Institute itself is a magnificent building on a very beautiful campus in a fabulous city. The "feel" of the campus energized me. Students bustling to get to classes in eager anticipation of whatever it was they were rushing to made me long for those days once again.
And there amidst the approximately 17,000 students stands a structure dedicated to a man who served his country in war and in peace, on the battlefields of Europe and Capitol Hill. Senator Bob Dole is a true American hero. Most Americans are aware of his magnificent military service and that he represented the great State of Kansas in the United States Congress for 36 years. This brave man who was grievously wounded in Italy, having had his shoulder and back shattered at the hands of machine gunfire, lay close to death on foreign soil. When he returned to the U.S. he went back to Russell, Kansas and literally willed and worked his way back to health. Although disabled, nothing stood in his way. He fought back and regained his strength and determination to make the country he loved even better.
His years in Washington were marked by triumphs and defeats, most notably never attaining the one political job he dearly sought: the presidency. But his triumphs were to be much greater than anyone could have ever imagined.
Bob Dole delighted in the title "Conservative". He was, and is, proud to be called a Conservative Republican. And yet, when I think of Senator Dole and the legacy that he leaves of his 36 years on The Hill, I think of his work and imprimatur on that seemingly, undeniably un-Republican program called food stamps. In 1977, it was Bob Dole and Democrat George McGovern who created the program, as we know it today. Their legislation greatly expanded participation in the program. Senator Dole didn't view hunger as a partisan issue. He didn't view ending hunger as a Republican or Democratic issue. Senator Dole viewed it as a compassionate response and a humanitarian solution to breaking the cycle of poverty.
There are members of the global community who suffer at the hands of deprivation. They are deprived of the very sustenance they need to survive. A helping hand and the nourishment necessary allows those who need the assistance to get one step closer to the ultimate goal of self sufficiency.
Hunger should not be a political issue. Hunger is a humanitarian issue. It is not liberal, nor is it conservative. As Senators Dole and McGovern have taught us, solving seemingly intractable problems takes putting partisanship aside. It takes courage and compassion and understanding that when someone is hungry we all suffer the consequences.
This is the legacy of Bob Dole. I am honored to have spoken at an institute that bears his name on the subject of which those of us in the anti-hunger community know will be another of his legacies.