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Dole Tells Students To Face 'Bumps' With Humor

Bob Dole
Former congressman Bob Dole tells the SHSU and Huntsville communities of the three things they need in life—patience, a sense of humor and the ability to keep your word—as the university's 12th President's Speaker Series lecturer on Monday morning.

As someone more well-known for losing presidential bids than for his congressional accomplishments, Bob Dole has encountered many “bumps in the road.”

But overcoming these bumps was the message Dole presented to his “greatest generation” in a crowded Killinger Auditorium Monday as part of the President’s Speaker Series at Sam Houston State University.

“As you get a little older, you look back, and if you have a failure, that’s not the end of the world,” he said. “I’ve never met a person, and I’ve done a lot of traveling, who has said, ‘Bob, I’ve never had a problem.’ I don’t know that there’s a person like that around, and I’m not certain I’d like to meet that person.

“If something isn’t quite like you’d like, that doesn’t mean you give up,” he said. “As you get older, you’re going to learn that success and failure are part of your life; they’re part of growing up.”

The former state legislator and U.S. congressman told the audience that there are three things one needs in life: patience, a sense of humor and the ability to keep your word.

“One thing you learn in the hospital, when you can’t button your shirt, you can’t go to the bathroom by yourself, you can do little, tiny things, is you have to be patient; you have to wait,” Dole said, in reference to his World War II injuries that included both of his arms and his neck. “I think it’s the same in school. It’s important that we all learn that we’ve got to get help in our lives sometimes.”

He said he also learned patience during his time in Congress, when people would talk and talk “without saying anything.”

Working in the political arena taught him the importance of a sense of humor as well, according to Dole.

“I’ve said I lost the (presidential) election in 1996 because Clinton kept scheduling the debates after my bedtime,” Dole said. “When I was campaigning, we had all these signs all over the place that said ‘Dole in 96,’ and someone changed them to say ‘Dole is 96.’ I wasn’t quite that old.”

That sense of humor was helpful to him on the late-night talk show circuit with such comedians as Jon Stewart, Jay Leno and David Letterman, as well as on the sets of some commercials he did, including one with Britney Spears “back when she was a good girl.

“She got $10 million, and I got a year’s supply of Pepsi,” he quipped.

Dole took that sense of humor and translated it even further in the political arena, writing two books, “Great Political Wit: Laughing Almost All the Way to the White House” and “Great Presidential Wit (…I wish I was in the Book).”

“I think the best line in the book (‘Great Political Wit’) was attributed to Winston Churchill, who was at a big dinner one night and he and the lady sitting next to him got into a big argument back and forth, back and forth. Finally, she turned to him, ‘Winston, if you were my husband, I would poison your coffee.’ He said, ‘if you were my wife, I would drink it,’” Dole said.

Among Dole’s Top 10 funniest presidents were Abraham Lincoln (No. 1), who once replied to an allegation that he was two-faced by retorting, “Do you think if I had another one, I’d keep the one I have?;” Ronald Reagan (No. 2), who addressed criticism of his purchase of B-1 airplanes by saying he thought they were vitamins; and “silent” Calvin Coolidge (No. 3), who would answer all the questions at a press conference with “no comment” and then afterward tell the media not to quote him on anything.

Finally, Dole said he learned very early in life that “you’ve got to keep your word.

“It used to be that you wouldn’t have to sign a contract; you could just shake hands and that was it. I’m not saying that’s the best way to do it, but keeping your word is very, very important,” he said. “People respect people who give their word and keep their word.

“One thing I’ve learned is that when you leave politics, your numbers go up,” he said. “People have more confidence in what you say because they know you’re not motivated by an election or something else.”

As one of the 8.2 million veterans who attended college through the Army GI Bill, Dole stressed the importance of education, one of “the most important challenges in America.

“An education is important to your generation. There are some veterans who think the important thing is ‘how big is my check for my disability,’ but more importantly, we have to take a look at the outcomes,” he said. “What is this young man or young woman going to be doing in four or five years?”

Dole told the story of a triple amputee he had visited who used one hand, his only remaining hand, to get out of his chair, get down on the floor, play with his one-year-old and six-year-old and get back in the chair.

“That’s your generation; that’s your generation. That’s what you’re made of,” he said. “You ought to be proud of your generation.”

During those visits, Dole said he’s become “especially inspired by a lot of young people these days because of the sacrifices your generation has made.

“Tom Brokaw, a former NBC man, a great guy from South Dakota, wrote a book called ‘The Greatest Generation’ about World War II. In that book, he talked about a lot of different people, and he said we were the greatest generation,” Dole said. “My view is the greatest generation today are the young men and women in Afghanistan, Iraq, the DMZ, all around the world protecting the rest of us.”




SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
Oct. 23, 2007
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