Former Kan. Sen. Bob Dole visits Wichita State

At the age of 90, former Kan. Sen. Bob Dole can still speak articulately about any subject.

He also still has a lot of respect from the people of Kansas. In a visit to the Wichita State Hughes Metroplex Wednesday morning, an audience of about 200 people greeted Dole with a standing ovation when he and U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Wichita) took to the stage.

“I’m very honored to be here,” Dole said.

Dole discussed his involvement in politics, including lamenting about his presidential defeat by then-President Bill Clinton in 1996.

“I was on a ballot in 1996, but something happened that year: we lost,” Dole said, getting a few laughs from the audience.

He even joked that although he is not running for political office now, he is considering running for president in 2016.

In addition, Dole also discussed issues the Republican Party faces today. He said the party is divisive, which he said is a problem for getting legislation passed.

“I learned sometimes you can’t get everything you want in legislation,” he said.

Dole also said working across parties is important when serving in politics. He said this is how he was able to get most things done when he was in politics.

“Not every issue is a partisan issue…If you can trust each other, you can get things done (in politics),” Dole said.

When Dole finished speaking, a brief question and answer session began. Kansas Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D-Wichita) was one of the questioners and had Dole elaborate on working across party lines.

Dole maintained that he considers himself a traditional Republican conservative, but he understands not everyone thinks the same way, even within parties.

“We’ve got to be a party of inclusion,” Dole said.

Dole started as a member of the Kansas state legislature from 1951 to ’53. Dole served Kansas in the House of Representatives as a Republican from 1961 to ’69. He then served as a U.S. Kansas Senator from 1969 to ‘96. Dole was the Republican candidate for president in the 1996 election, but was defeated by then-President Bill Clinton.  Dole lost in the 1988 Republican presidential primary election to George H.W Bush.

Before Dole spoke, a spokesman for Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said Brewer officially proclaimed May 14, 2014 as “Bob Dole Day in Wichita,” garnering further applause from the audience.

Pompeo said being able to introduce Dole was one of his proudest moments as a Congressman.

“What we love Sen. Dole here in Kansas for is he always loves us,” Pompeo said. “He always worked hard on our behalf. He was always there to be encouraging. He was always there to work hard for Kansas values.”

Pompeo added that Wichita is lucky to have Dole visit as part of his tour of Kansas. Once he was done speaking, he turned to Dole, who addressed the audience in a simple, yet powerful tone.

After the Q&A, spectators of Dole’s speech were offered the opportunity to walk up to the stage and shake hands and take photos with Dole. After about half an hour of the meet and greet, Dole was helped offstage by assistants, since he relies mostly on his wheelchair to get around.

As Dole was escorted off the stage, the remaining audience members again gave him a standing ovation, continuing to show their respect and admiration.

Dole’s tour of Kansas continues today, with a visit to the El Dorado campus of Butler Community College and a scheduled 2:45 p.m. visit to the Lyon County Courthouse in Emporia. It concludes tomorrow with stops in Topeka and Wyandotte County.