Former Sen. Bob Dole seemed in good spirits as he joked with well-wishers Tuesday night at The Well in McPherson.

Former Sen. Bob Dole seemed in good spirits  as he joked with well-wishers Tuesday night at The Well in McPherson.
Dole, who was elected to represent Kansas five times in U.S. Senate, is on a state-wide tour expressing gratitude to his Kansas constituency for the years of their support.
Bob Wise of McPherson, who had been the local campaign chairman for Dole in 1968 and 1974, read a proclamation signed by the mayor designating Tuesday Senator Bob Dole Day.
“I don’t have any agenda,” Dole said. “For once in my life I am not here asking you for anything. I am not asking for money or for you to vote for me. At age 90, I wanted to take a tour of my home state, and I thought I better get busy.”
Dole, who received an injury that permanently disabled his right hand in World War II, spoke about the importance of veterans’ care.
He recounted a case that has recently brought to light in the media about veterans in Arizona who died waiting for care from the VA.
“We have an obligation to them,” he said of veterans.
Dole recalled his early entry into politics, which he said was accidental. His parents didn’t have much money and were not interested in politics. A local law librarian, who valued public service, took interest in four young people, including Dole. Dole ran for the Kansas Legislature and was elected to the House. He served one term before returning to his home in Russell to serve as county attorney, starting in 1956. He served in the U.S. House from 1961 to 1969, was elected to five terms in the Senate, where he served as the majority leader, was the Republican nominee for vice president in 1976, and was the Republican nominee for President in 1996.
“I was elected to five different terms in the Senate, but I could not have done that without the support of friends in Kansas,” he said. “I can never repay you for what you did for me. I tried to do the best I could to repay you in Congress.”
Dole said he was a Reagan and Eisenhower Republican. He believed in working across the aisle to best represent his state. Dole blamed the gridlock in Congress today on a failure to cooperate.
“I don’t want to criticize anyone, but I don’t think they are doing it at all,” Dole said of cooperation between parties. “The Democrats control the Senate, and the Republicans control the House. The House passes bills, and the Senate puts them in a pile.”
Dole also was asked about world affairs.
He said the President needs to be a stronger leader on the world front. He was especially critical of the President’s policy on Russia. Dole said he thought Russia’s president Vladimir Putin is seeking to reinstate the Cold War era Soviet empire, which included much of eastern Europe.
“The President says if the Russians don’t stop, there will be consequences,” he said, “but there are never any consequences.”
Irene Whitlock of McPherson was at The Well Tuesday to greet Dole. She was a long-time volunteer for Dole and the Republican Party.
She recalled Dole’s early campaigns for Senate as hard-fought races. She said she put 100,000 miles on her Buick in the late 1960s campaigning for Dole.
Whitlock recalled a family dinner with Dole in the back of her family’s camera studio in McPherson after Dole participated in an All Schools Day parade.
She remembered his appreciation for the home-cooked fried chicken and how he attentively conversed with Whitlock’s aunt.
“I can’t say anything about my career in politics without saying Bob Dole,” she said.
Bob Wise recalled working on Dole’s campaigns in 1968 and 1974. Dole was running for re-election in 1974 against Bill Roy, a doctor and lawyer from Topeka. His opponent was ahead in race until Dole pulled out the win in the last few days.
Wise described Dole as friendly, saying he knew everyone and never forgot the people he met.
“He is wonderful and inspiring,” Wise said. “His tenacity in the face of physical challenges his entire adult life has been inspiring.”
Rick Wilborn of McPherson cast a Kansas delegate vote for Dole at the 1996 Republican Convention in San Diego.
He said there were not enough words to adequately describe Dole and his contributions to his state and country. Wilborn said seeing Dole interacting with his fellow Kansans was heartwarming.
“Through his Russell roots and his heroic efforts during the war — together they built a character that was able to provide a unique contribution to his constituents and the nation,” Wilborn said.