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Government

Bob Dole Receives Congressional Gold Medal

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Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole on Wednesday received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor U.S. lawmakers can bestow.

President Donald Trump credited Dole’s upbringing in Kansas for his determination to overcome injuries sustained in World War II and accomplish so much in Congress.

“Home was where Bob Dole learned the classic American grit. He knows about grit,” Trump said. “It was where he learned the values of loyalty, integrity, hard work, faith and family that have defined him ever since.”

During the ceremony, congressional leaders recognized Dole’s bipartisan deal-making skills, his humanitarian efforts and his work on behalf of people with disabilities.

Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins said Dole has served as a mentor and inspired her to enter public service. She said his efforts have had a far-reaching impact.

"You have greatly impacted so many in this nation as well as people all over the world that you have never even met," Jenkins said.

Dole, now 94, has always been known for his wit, and he joked about the adoration at the event.

“I want to thank all those who have said such kind words about me," Dole said. "They’re probably not true, but they were nice."

Much of the credit for his accomplishments goes to the staff members he worked with over the years, Dole said.

“I’ve always said you’re no better than your staff,” he said.

Respect for Dole cut through partisan divisions in the Senate, said Republican Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts. Every senator supported legislation that made the award possible.

“It takes a very special person for all 100 of us to be so enthusiastic and grateful, to join in common bipartisan cause for this unique award,” Roberts said.

Dole was the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate and the 1996 Republican nominee for president.

The current Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, offered his own high praise.

“Bob has built an extraordinary life on the basis of ordinary American values. As a legislator, he showed that principles and pragmatism are not opposites, but compliments. As a leader, he prized results over rhetoric,” McConnell said.

Dole, who grew up in Russell, served in Congress for 35 years.

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Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @KPRKoranda.