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CNN Live Event/Special
President Biden Delivers Tribute To Sen. Bob Dole; Former U.S. Senator Pat Roberts Delivers Tribute. Aired 11:30a-12p ET
Aired December 10, 2021 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was trying to help a fallen comrade, his platoon radioman when everything changed, and I mean everything changed. His spine was damaged because fire tore across the hills shattering his body, grievously wounded. He was paralyzed. Dragged behind a wall. Bob would pass in and out of consciousness, dreaming of home as he laid bleeding in a foxhole for nearly nine hours. He was 21 years old.
Nearly eight decades on, we gather here in a world far different from the mountains, battlefields in 1949 -- 45, but there's something -- there's something that connects that past and present wartime and peace, then and now, the courage, the grit, the goodness and the grace of second lieutenant named Bob Dole who became Congressman Dole, Senator Dole, statesman, husband, father, friend, colleague, and a word that's often overused but not here, a genuine hero, Bob Dole.
Dean, and the clergy officiating today's service, President Clinton, Vice President Harris, Vice President Pence and Cheney and Quayle, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, members of Congress of both parties, past and present, members of the Cabinet, General Milley, leaders of our military, distinguished guests, most of all the Dole family, Elizabeth, it's been said that memory is the power to gather roses in winter. Bob left you with 45 years worth of roses, a life built and a lot of shared that's going to guide you through the difficult days ahead.
Jill and I will always be there for you, as many others in this church will be, as you and Bob were always there for us in ways nobody knows. And Robin, you carry your father's pride, grace and character. He's always going to be with you, because the old saying goes, we Irish say, you are your father's daughter. You are your father's daughter.
Bob Dole's story is a very American one. Born and raised in a three- room house, through the dustbowl the Great Depression, shipped out as a young man to World War II. Wounded in battle. On the same weekend that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was being mourned by millions, Bob came home, rebuild his life, painful hour, by painful day, by painful week by painful month, a painful year.
Hearing (ph) he and Danny no way was wounded on a mountain not far from where he was. Talk about the recovery they spent together for all those literally several years was astounding. God, what courage Bob Dole had.
He then went to school on the G.I. Bill, came to Washington with the new frontier. Bravely voted for civil rights and voting rights in the years of the Kennedys, Lyndon Johnson, and Martin Luther King Jr. Ran for president on the ticket with Gerald Ford. And through the ages of Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, the elder, and Clinton, Bob was literally the master of the Senate.
We served together for 25 years. We disagreed, but we were never disagreeable with one another. Not one time that I can think of.
I have found Bob to be a man of principle, pragmatism and enormous integrity. He came into the arena with certain guiding principles to begin with devotion to country, to fair play, to decency, to dignity, to honor, to literally attempting to find the common good.
That's how I work with George McGovern to fight hunger in America. Particularly as it affected children and around the world. He worked with Teddy Kennedy and Tom Harkin to bring down the barriers of Americans living with disabilities, a profound change and profound act of grace.
He worked with Daniel Patrick Moynihan to literally save Social Security, because Bob believed every American deserves to grow old with their basic dignity, basic dignity intact. And over the opposition of many in his own party and some in mine, he managed to build or create the federal holiday in the name of Martin Luther King Jr. Bob Dole, Bob Dole did that.
He never forgot where he came from -- I'll never forgot what he said to our colleagues about the effort for the King holiday. And I'll quote, he said, "No first class democracy can treat people like second class citizens." No first class democracy can treat people like second class citizens.
Bob didn't hate government. Knew the people needed it most or the people most in need. He wanted government to work, to work for folks like him who came up the hard way. Just give everybody a chance, Joe, just a chance.
During the Depression, Bob's parents moved into the basement of their three-room, not three bedroom, the three-room home in Russell, Kansas, so they could rent out, quote, the upstairs. Bob understood hardship. He had known hardship. He never forgot it. He never forgot the people as well who sent him to Washington. People from Russell, from Kansas.
Bob was a man who always did his duty, who live by a code of honor. Almost seems strange to say that today, but he live by a code of honor and he mean it.
Just as his colleagues, Republican and Democrat, looked at him, I think they saw him the same way I did. Just ask any who served with him at the time. Bob Dole fit my dad's description. He said, you must be a man of your word. Without your word, you're not a man. Bob Dole was a man of his word.
He loved his country, which he served his whole life. The Bible tells us to whom much is given, much is expected. And Bob Dole, for all this hardship, believed he'd been given the greatest gift of all. He was an American. He was an American. And he felt it.
Let's be honest, Bob Dole was always honest, sometimes to a fault. He once endured the wrath of his fellow Republicans when there was a legitimate fight going on to defund Amtrak.
Now I've traveled over 1,200,000 miles on Amtrak because I commuted every single day. Came time for literally the deciding vote, the deciding vote on whether we're going to defund Amtrak. And he cast the vote against his party deciding to keep funding Amtrak.
And obviously, my guess he was asked why. Why would you do that? He said, it's the best way to get Joe Biden the hell out of here at night so he's not here on memorial. Excuse my language. True story. Absolutely true story.
God, I love the guy. As I said he was always honest. But Bob relished a good political fight, much as anybody I've ever served with in the 36 years I was in the Senate. And Bob gave us good or better than any guy.
He was a proud Republican. He chaired his party. He led his caucus in the United States Senate. And he bore the banner as its nominee for vice president and president of the United States. He could be partisan. And that was fine.
Americans had been partisan since Jefferson and Hamilton, squared off in George Washington's Cabinet. But like them, Bob Dole was a patriot. He was a patriot. And here's what his patriotism teaches us, in my view. As Bob Dole himself wrote, at the end of his life, and I quote him, "I cannot pretend that I have not been a loyal champion in my party. But I've always served my country best when I did so first and foremost, as an American." End of quote.
First and foremost, as an American. That was Bob Dole. Elizabeth, that was your husband. That was your dad. Always as an American. He understood that we're all part of something much bigger than ourselves. And he really did, I felt. He really understood it.
And a compromise isn't a dirty word. It's the cornerstone of democracy. Consensus is required in a democracy to get anything done. That's how you get things done.
Again, listen to Bob Dole's words, not mine. I'm quoting him again. "I learned that it's difficult to get anything done, unless you can compromise. Not your principles, but your willingness to see the other side. Those who suggest to compromise is a sign of weakness, misunderstand the fundamental strength of democracy." End of quote.
In his final days, Bob made it clear that he is deeply concerned about the threat to American democracy. Not from foreign nations, but from the division tearing us apart from within. And this soldier reminded us, and I quote, "Too many of us have sacrificed too much in defending freedom from foreign adversaries to allow our democracy to crumble in a state under a state of infighting that grows more unacceptable day by day."
Grows more unacceptable day by day. He wrote this, when he knew his days were numbered, in small numbers.
My fellow Americans taps is now sounding for the soldier of America. Forged in war, tested by adversity. Taps is now sounding for this patriot, driven by a sense of mission, give back to the land that gave everything to him, for which he nearly gave his all. Taps is now sounding for this giant of our time and of all time.
We're bidding this great American farewell, but we know, as long as we keep his spirit alive, as long as we see each other not as enemies, but as neighbors and colleagues, as long as we remember that we're here not to tear down but to build up, as long as we remember that, then taps will never sound for Bob Dole.
For Bob who will be with us always cracking a joke, moving to bill, finding common ground. And his final message to the nation, Bob said that whenever he started a new journey, whenever he started a new journey, the first thing he would do, and I quote, "Is sit back and watch for a few days, then start standing up for what he thought was right," end of quote.
Bob was taking this final journey. He's sitting back now watching us. Now it's our job to start standing up for what's right for America. I salute you, my friend. Your nation salute you. And I believe the words of the poet R.G. Ingersoll when he described heroism, better fit you than anyone I know.
And Ingersoll wrote the following, "When the will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns a compromised with death, that is heroism."
Its flights of angels, sing thee to thy rest, Bob. God bless Bob Dole. God bless America. May God protect our troops.
PAT ROBERTS (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR FOR KANSAS: Mr President -- let's try that again. Mr. President, Madam Vice President, distinguished guests all, Elizabeth and Robin, Bob Dole was a Kansas native son. He along with his hero, Dwight David Eisenhower, our Kansas's favorite son. And they represent the vision and the promise of America.
Life in our state molded Bob and Ike, open prairies, wind, always the wind, wheat fields, agriculture, where man is at the mercy of chance and weather, but can still be confident in the dignity of his labor. Bob's early life in Russell, Kansas, where the population hovered around 2000, included the Dust Bowl, and the Great Depression.
Bob characterized Russell when addressing the Russell High School, graduating class of 1986. He said, "There are two kinds of education in this world. There's one where you give yourself and another you get from others. You could get an education on the farm or in a factory or in a science lab, in a church pew, most of all if you're from Russell, you can get an education just by looking at life around you."
When I was a boy, I doubt we knew the names of our congressmen or senators, but we were blessed to have friends and neighbors who knew and cared for one another. When times were tough, people were tougher. When the winds howled and part of the prairie itself was blown away, I could barely see to deliver the newspapers on my paper route.
But because I came from Russell, because I came from Kansas, I was granted a special vision, one which has seen me all the years since, one which you can rely on just the same. And he defined this Kansas vision by saying, "My friends, I hope that you will never stop looking at the stars. I hope you will never forget our state motto to the stars, through difficulties. I hope that you will never stop believing and things you cannot see. I hope that your future is as hospitable and beckoning as mine was when I stood on a seminar platform more than 40 years ago.
I hope that in the making of life for yourselves, you won't neglect serving your country. Most of all, I hope that wherever you go, and whatever you do, Russell will go with you. And for them, I know that you will be well-guided." And well-guided he was in attaining his vision and embodying the promise of America.
When we lost Bob on Sunday, there was a pause throughout the state of Kansas, as Kansans from all walks of life stop to reflect. Bob Dole was a person who meant something to everyone, in the coffee shop to campaign trail, the halls of Congress. Whether we were in Topeka, Abilene, Wichita or Dodge City, I saw Bob Dole connect with Kansans always on a personal level. He would share with them this vision, this promise, and he would help them to achieve it. Just like the folks in Russell did in supporting him.
Now, as a young staffer, and later a member of the House of Representatives, following in Senator Dole's footsteps, I certainly understood Bob Dole's influence and power. On a Thursday in 1983, he would be fighting to protect Social Security with President Reagan, Senator Moynihan, others in the White House. And then on Saturday, he would be listening to Thelma, Insurance Springs, Kansas, telling him that Social Security meant to her daily life and pocketbook.
And when he returned to Washington with that empathy of his and knowing Kansas, and knowing Thelma, it enabled him to win the victories that he did for the disabled, for veterans, for the hungry or for any of the issues of the day that needed negotiation, steady compromise and the vision of America's Promise.
[11:55:15] Bob never lost his common sense and famous wit. He was imbedded in his nature to deliver that punch line, deadpan, knowing, waiting for the room to light up, which it always did, for the barriers to come down, letting the air out of the partisan balloons.
Dole's manner and influence were so strong that if I were for something, people thought Bob was for something. And I never informed them or Bob otherwise. Well, the work we did was serious. It was a different time. There were light-hearted times too.
I would call up his chief of staff and say, "Where's my speech?" And a scramble was off to get the leader's remarks. They eventually figured it out it was Roberts again. And I made sure my staff didn't take calls from Dole's office for the rest of the week.
When his official public service came to an end, Bob could have faded away with his dear Elizabeth, telling stories, remembering the good old days. But that was not his nature. There was still so much vision and promise still so much he could do for his fellow veterans and for his nation.
Let everyone know, without Bob Dole, there would not be a World War II Memorial. Bob also stressed at the time that there should also be a memorial to Ike so that veterans could salute and thank their commanding general. That effort took 24 years. And again with Bob's help, we dedicated the Eisenhower Memorial last year.
Bob Dole understood that it was just not recognition that this greatest generation deserved. It was reflection and renewal. And it was for the greatest generation to inspire the next generation. There is no better display of the vision and promise of America.
Then every weekend, when the honor flights would roll up to the World War II Memorial, Kansas veterans, escorted by Kansas high school students, would visit their memorial to reflect on their fight to preserve a free world. And there was Bob, shaking every hand, posing for every picture, listening to all the stories, and the thanks, the thanks of his still grateful nation.
When Elizabeth told us he passed in his sleep, and we all knew that an era had come to an end, my first reaction was one of sadness and grief, losing a dear friend and mentor. But then thinking about it, I think the good Lord touched Bob's hand and told him it was time to come home.
See his folks that there were quite a few World War II veterans and some from North Korea and Vietnam who were looking forward to thanking him, as well as folks who were disabled, quite a few dog and cat lovers, and quite a few folks from farm country, still upset about something. And a whole passel of folks from Kansas and all over. A lot of them Republicans who say they voted for him and some Democrats who say they should have.
And then he said, don't worry, Bob, our heavenly gates are guarded by United States Marines. So thank you, Lord, for enabling us to live in such a time and space that gave the -- us the opportunity and privilege to know Bob Dole, a Kansas star who truly shined through difficulty.