SEN. GRASSLEY: Could not have asked for a better mentor than Dole

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This week marks 80 years since FDR delivered his “day of infamy” speech to a Joint Session of Congress.

FDR told the nation that the United States of America was under attack.

Pearl Harbor changed the course of history, including the future and fortunes of a young man from Russell, Kansas.

Today, I come to the Senate floor with a heavy heart. I’m here to pay tribute to my best friend in the U.S. Senate.

Yesterday, Senator Dole passed away at 98 years of age.

For 35 of those years, he served Kansans here in Congress.

He’s also the second longest-serving Senate Republican Leader.

When Iowans first elected me to serve in the U.S. Senate, Bob Dole took me under his wing.

I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.

He treated me like a brother.

Even when we disagreed, he treated me with respect.

We shared conservative, Midwestern values that steered us to champion fiscal discipline, American agriculture, rural health care and limited government.

From humble beginnings, the three-sport athlete at The University of Kansas left his field of dreams behind to enlist and serve his country.

Near the end of World War II, he was called to serve on the front lines in the Northern Mountains of Italy.

From the Great Depression to the Greatest Generation, Senator Dole was battle-tested to tackle whatever life threw at him.

During his presidential campaigns, he got to know my home state of Iowa very well.

Bob loved Iowa.

He won the Iowa caucuses twice.

In 1988 and 1996, I was proud to join him on the campaign trail and crisscross the state, visiting with as many Iowans in as many counties as possible.

He even earned an honorary nickname: “Iowa’s third Senator.”

On the campaign trail, it was often my job to introduce Senator Dole.

I would start off by telling the story about the day he nearly lost his life on the battlefield.

I wanted to show how this young solider from the Kansas prairie led a platoon of mountain troops to flush out the enemy – far, far afield from serving chocolate malts at Dawson’s Drugstore in Russell, Kansas.

To illustrate his grit, courage and resiliency, I explained how a then-21-year-old soldier belly-crawled across a mountain valley under heavy artillery to secure “Hill 15” or was it “Hill 13?”

That’s when Senator Dole would chime in with a witty remark.

More often than not, I flubbed the name of that hill in my introduction.

He patiently said it was not “Hill 15.”

It was “Hill 9-1-3.”

Humble through and through, he didn’t share that his injuries left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Rather, he joked that I got the name of the hill wrong.

He went on to say that what’s important is that we’re in the right state (Iowa) at the right time, right now.

Senator Dole’s legacy was secured that day on the Italian mountain side.

As Second Lieutenant of the Tenth Mountain Division, as he pulled his radio operator to safety, Bob’s right shoulder was nearly blown away.

The hit paralyzed him from the neck down.

He waited for hours in pouring rain, bleeding and in pain before being carried down the mountain.

Bob Dole was sent home to Kansas in a body cast.

He endured years of surgeries, infections and rehabilitation in relentless pursuit to walk again.

He learned how to write with his left hand. His right arm remained paralyzed.

Bob never forgot the people who helped him along the way, a doctor in Chicago or the medical professionals in Italy.

They made it possible for him to serve in elected office.

Even though Senator Dole endured more than his share of hardship, it didn’t take away his sense of humor.

The master of witty one-liners could defuse red-hot partisanship with a single quip.

As Republican Senate Majority Leader, he finessed thorny policy issues with no-nonsense charm.

He was able to find consensus with allies and adversaries alike.

When Senator Dole became chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he and House Speaker Tip O’Neill forged bipartisan consensus to rescue social security.

Less than ten years later, he helped broker the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990alongside my former colleague from Iowa, Senator Tom Harkin.

His compassion for the disadvantaged informed his legislative achievements to expand Medicaid, school lunches, hospice and food stamps.

Senator Dole was awarded the World Food Prize in Des Moines with Senator George McGovern in 2008 for their work to combat hunger, specifically nutrition for children in poverty.

He never forgot from where he came, and his legislative record reflects his compassion for others.

He was a compassionate conservative because of his instincts and because of who he was, not as a political gimmick.

Senator Dole had an uncommon ability to make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world.

He was plain-spoken, not a smooth talker.

His authenticity wasn’t manufactured, it pumped through his bloodstream, shaped by hardship in the Dust Bowl and sacrifice as a war hero.

His Midwestern instincts guided his decision on one crucial factor here in the Senate.

The looming deadline.

He knew when to fish or cut bait.

Senator Dole mastered the art of compromise, embraced transparency and banked trust and respect of supporters and opponents, alike.

Senator Dole knew what it took to make the Senate work.

Heaven knows it’s not easy.

One former Majority Leader referred to the job as “herding cats.”

Leader Dole was effective because he was exceptionally skilled at figuring out what each side needed to claim victory.

You can’t be an effective leader if you don’t have followers and Dole had a lot of them.

He was a war hero and a work horse rolled into one.

A soldier. A senator. A statesman.

He led the Tenth Mountain Division to defeat tyranny and championed the Tenth Amendment to uphold the blessings of freedom and liberty.

When Senator Dole stepped away from public life, he didn’t stop public service.

He poured his heart and soul into honoring veterans.

He was instrumental in getting the National World War II Memorial established, where for nearly two decades he has greeted veterans at the Memorial face-to-face to thank them for their service and sacrifice.

Barbara and I extend our condolences to Elizabeth and the entire Dole family.

So many are grieving the loss of this extraordinary American here at home and around the world.

From his former colleagues, to the corps of loyal staffers who worked with him here in the U.S. Senate, to legions of volunteers and supporters who worked for him on the campaign trail, Senator Dole was a widely respected leader on both sides of the aisle.

Senator Dole referenced scripture when he resigned from the Senate in 1996 to hit the presidential campaign trail full speed ahead.

He said: “To everything, there is a season.”

A quarter-century has passed since he shared those very words with us in this chamber.

Today, the time has come to say farewell to my mentor and brother in Christ, Robert Joseph Dole.

The Lord has called home his loyal servant. Until we meet again, enjoy the new balcony in Eternal paradise.

It’s got a better view to keep watch over Washington and your beloved Sunflower State.

It’s fair to say that “Dole Beach” is now even closer to the sun.

May you enjoy the warm sunshine upon your face in life everlasting.

And, may the yoke of hardship born upon your shoulders, worn with grit and grace, weathered by the ravages of time and war, be taken on now by our Lord God and Savior.

At the end of the day on the campaign trail, whether it was getting on an airplane or in a car to the motel or restaurant, we always heard Dole say, “Free at last, free at last.”

Well, Bob Dole is now free at least.

Godspeed, my friend.

You have made a difference in my life.

You have made a difference for your country.

Your service and sacrifice will be celebrated for generations to come.


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