Dole funny and serious during ASIS address

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

SAN DIEGO--Former Senate Majority Leader and presidential candidate Robert Dole deftly mixed humor with often somber reflections on his life as a soldier and politician during an hour-long keynote address on Sept. 26 at ASIS International.
Speaking to an appreciative crowd of more than 1,000 at the San Diego convention center, Dole noted that he had accepted the Republican presidential nomination in this same hall ten years earlier and proceeded to cover a wide range of topics regarding life in 2006.
During that presidential contest, which pitted Dole against a much younger Bill Clinton, Dole mused, "some changed my election signs from 'Dole in '96' to 'Dole is 96.'" After the election, Dole and his wife, N.C. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, returned to their Washington D.C. apartment in the Watergate complex and discovered that Monica Lewinsky lived in the apartment next door.
"You had to be careful walking around the hallways because Ken Starr might subpoena you," he joked, drawing laughs from the crowd.
Dole then turned more serious. Talking about the war in Iraq, he suggested that Iraq may have transported its WMD to Syria before or just after the U.S. attacked. History, he said, will determine whether President Bush's decision to invade Iraq will be remembered as a successful "preemptive strategy or a painful experience that resulted from honorable intentions."
About Americans' concern about "chaotic conditions in Iraq," he reminded the audience that "there was much more chaos during WWII," when less sophisticated technology made tactical errors commonplace.
Dole's speech was interrupted by applause when he said the so-called "MTV generation," who had previously been criticized for "not having what it takes" to serve in the armed services, have proven that they are now "the greatest generation."
About leadership, Dole said that General Dwight Eisenhower, "said it all in about four sentences," which he wrote down after ordering the 1944 Normandy invasion. Eisenhower penned a statement to release to the press in the event that the invasion failed. The statement said that he had made the decision to invade "based on the best information available ... and if there is any blame or fault, it is mine alone."
"Leadership without responsibility is not leadership," Dole said. This is true for presidents, other government leaders and "the people here in this audience."
Before making his final point, Dole highlighted several personal milestones: recovery from war wounds with the help of $1,800 raised by residents of his hometown of Russell, Kan.; Serving in Congress for nearly 28 years; aiding Americans with disabilities; chairing the WWII memorial committee that raised $195 million in donations from people like an Armenian American who did not serve in the war, but gave $1 million for the memorial because he felt their sacrifice was "central to the success he'd experienced as a small businessman in America."
In closing, he remembered that, accepting the nomination in 1996, "I said I was the most optimistic man in America." But, he noted, "It is precisely because I have experienced so much of our past that I have great hope for our future."