Former Kansas Senator Bob Dole spoke at Grinnell College Thursday, honoring his fellow World War II veterans and their families. "D-Day we lost 10,000 young men in one day; 10,000 never drew another breath — never had a chance to go to Grinnell College or any other college or to be whatever they wanted to be because they gave their life for us," Dole said. "In the Battle of the Bulge I think we lost about 11,000 in just a few days, so you can’t measure the sacrifices…There’s no way to repay these men and women."
Dole was instrumental in construction of a World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. and he choked up as he explained what it’s like to talk to the other vets who visit the site. "It’s a very emotional experience," Dole said. "…Suddenly they’re walking through this arch and they’re probably thinking about, you know, ‘What was I doing when I was 18, 19, 20?’…I ask them…’Did you shed a tear?’ You can’t think of anything that is more meaningful."
Dole, the 1996 Republican nominee for president, also touted the two books he’s written since then. "The first one was called ‘Great Political Wit’ and the subtitle was ‘Laughing Almost All the Way to the White House,’ and it became a best seller. I don’t know why," Dole said. "…We had so much fun doing that one, we said, ‘Well, let’s try one more’ and it’s called ‘Great Presidential Wit’ and the subtitle was ‘I Wish I Was in This Book.’"
Dole’s last book listed the 10 presidents who had the best senses of humor, but according to Dole his publication deadline had to be pushed back because the 2000 election was undecided. "We had to wait because we had to have the Gore and Bush humor, but fortunately we got it all on about a half a page," Dole quipped. The Grinnell audience responded with laughter.
Dole’s book classified Abraham Lincoln as the president with the best sense of humor. "I think he used humor as a crutch to get through each difficult day," Dole said.
About 600 people — including many veterans — gathered to hear Dole speak in Grinnell. The oldest vet in the crowd was 91. Dole is 85. "Now, they call us ‘The Greatest Generation’ — Tom Brokaw did — but I think the greatest generation now are the young men in Iraq and women in Iraq and Afghanistan and Korea and all around the world who are looking out for us. They’re ‘The Greatest Generation’ now and I think we’d be happy to pass the baton because it’s a fact," Dole said. "They’re taking the same risks that we did."
(Chris Johnson of KGRN in Grinnell contributed to this report.)