A time to say thanks





As former Sen. Bob Dole walked into the Clarion Inn Monday night, the crowd rose to its feet and clapped in appreciation.

Dole brought his 30-plus years of political experience to Garden City, and has 13 more stops to make this week in his fourth trip to Kansas this year.

He had no political agenda, but rather wanted to give thanks to the public that had supported him for so many years.

"People were very good to me and elected me to the House and then the Senate for five terms, and I thought it was a good thing to come around and say thank you." Dole said.

In his visit, Dole mentioned that the most important thing he did in Washington, D.C., was help rescue Social Security in 1993, when the country was running out of money and ran the risk of reducing the size of individual Social Security checks unless it was fixed.

He said 33 million Americans were counting on them, so they tweaked a few things, got commission members on board and the people liked it.

"I consider that something that affected people in Kansas and across the country," Dole said.

Negotiation or flexibility were large topics for Dole, and he remembers President Ronald Reagan telling him one day, "I want to get 100 percent (vote)." But, Reagan went on to say, "If you can't get me 100 percent, get me 70, and I'll get the rest next year."

Dole said Reagan knew that sometimes you can't receive all the votes.

"The thing about Kansas is we have common sense," Dole said. "And common sense means a lot when you're negotiating between yourselves or somebody down in Lakin or Dighton or Topeka or Washington — wherever."

When Dole was young, his family didn't have much money. But, he said, they did have common sense, and his parents made his siblings work and wanted them to be accountable and honest. He says it paid off.

Another proud moment in his political career was the Americans With Disabilities Act, which came at a time when both he and Ted Kennedy didn't agree on much, but did agree that they had to do something for disabled citizens.

He remembers the signing ceremony years later when George H.W. Bush was president and the White House was filled with gurneys, wheel chairs, and seeing-eye dogs.

"It was the greatest signing ceremony I ever had to attend," Dole said. "It didn't make a difference what color you were, what race you were, what party you were, it was for the American people."

His biggest disappointment was in 1985, when a bill to balance the budget came to a 50/50 vote. Just one vote would have changed that, Dole said.

Dole made a point of telling those in attendance Monday night that $178 million dollars was raised in getting the World War II Memorial built at the Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. Every Saturday, he said, he goes down to shake the hands of the veterans who fly on the Honor Flight. These flights bring veterans, including many from southwest Kansas, to the memorial at no expense.

"I have seen him several times at the memorial. I usually allow the vets to spend time with him," said Rosemary Corbett, Honor Flight Board of Directors member. "Now, it's my turn."

Dole made sure to acknowledge the veterans in the audience and asked them to stand so others could thank them for their service and clap in appreciation.

After answering a few questions from the crowd, Carole Corley stood up in thanking Dole for everything he had done. She said her father, a supporter of Dole's political views, thought he was an honorable and wise man.

"I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your passion and your commitment for making America a better place to live," Corley said. "We thank you, and may God bless you."

Corley wasn't the only one giving thanks. Dole also thanked Ernie Garcia, who spent more than 30 years beside Dole as a U.S. Senate sergeant at arms for four years, and at the Pentagon for five years, and in other capacities, as well.

"I could have done none of this without this man," Garcia said.

In ending his visit, Dole related politics to dealing with a cars salesman.

"Sometimes you have to work it out with the other side so you can get the product," Dole said.

After he was done speaking, the audience gave him a standing ovation. Afterwards, everyone was able to spend time with Dole, shaking his hand or sharing old memories or photographs. They were also able to take photographs with him.

Garden City resident Sheryl Cockrum waited in line and wanted to share the memories that she had of her aunt, Milly Johns, from Johnson City, who was a close friend of Dole's.

"She thought the world of him and his wife," Cockrum said.

Both Dole and his wife, Elizabeth, sent a large bouquet of red, white and blue carnations to both Cockrum's aunt and uncle's funerals. Monday, she said, was better than any other day to thank him for the flowers and what they meant to her family.

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