In Kansas this week, a political icon returned home. Former Republican Sen. Bob Dole has been traveling the state, meeting with friends and supporters who embraced his long political career.
Dole is not running for office, but the 90-year-old has a tour schedule that could tire a politician half his age. He’s made 10 public appearances over three days, including a stop at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
Dole has touched on serious topics during the trip. When asked about the most critical issues facing the nation in the next decade, he says controlling the budget will be near the top of the list and among the more difficult.
“I know when we had legislation when I was there that affected Kansas, it was pretty hard to vote for it if it was taking something away from Kansas,” he said.
There’s still plenty of Dole’s trademark wit sprinkled throughout his talks. At a facility bearing his name on the KU campus, he joked about his time at KU before going off to serve in World War II: “So we had a lot of farewell parties, but we didn’t attend many classes.”
Aldean Banker, from Dole’s hometown of Russell, says she liked his ability to get things done in Washington.
“He was very able to get people to work together, and I think we need that in government right now,” she says.
University of Kansas political science professor Burdett Loomis says while many may remember Dole for getting things done, he was a tough-minded partisan and pretty conservative for his time.
“But in the end, he was working to make this a better place. At the end he compromised, and in the end he could see the other person’s position,” Loomis said.
Beside being a presidential candidate three times, Loomis says Dole’s legacy may well be his work in the Senate helping pass key legislation like the Social Security overhaul and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Dole will continue his Kansas tour next month, with more than a dozen additional stops.