OPINION: Reflecting on Bob Dole’s message for America and Idaho

Wednesday December 8, 2021

By Governor Brad Little

When I heard of the passing of WWII combat veteran and former presidential candidate U.S. Senator Bob Dole, I immediately recalled a man of integrity, humility, and patriotism.

Senator Dole wrote his final column earlier this year. It has been published in the days since his death on Sunday. A member of the “Greatest Generation,” he served our country during a time when civility in politics was a requirement for getting anything done – and he reminds us that even though civility seems like a bygone value in American politics, it is STILL a requirement for getting the people’s work done. Indeed, our country’s future depends on the return of civility in politics and all aspects of our lives.

We should all take a few minutes to read Senator Dole’s piece and reflect on his message for America. You can read the full column here. These passages particularly stood out to me:

“We have overcome our biggest challenges only when we focused on our shared values and experiences. These common ties form much stronger bonds than political parties… I cannot pretend that I have not been a loyal champion for my party, but I always served my country best when I did so first and foremost as an American… When we prioritize principles over party and humanity over personal legacy, we accomplish far more as a nation. By leading with a shared faith in each other, we become America at its best: a beacon of hope, a source of comfort in crisis, a shield against those who threaten freedom.”

This week, I pulled an old book off my bookshelf. I remembered Senator Dole authored the introduction for the biography, “Idaho Sheep King,” written in 1990 by Coeur d’Alene native Louise Shadduck about my grandfather, Andy Little. It was published in celebration of Idaho’s centennial.

Senator Dole’s message for Idaho 31 years ago is as poignant today as it was then, perhaps more so. You can read his full introduction here, where he said, in part:

“My hometown of Russell, Kansas, appears to be akin to Emmett, Idaho, and thousands of other small American towns from whence come the sustaining traits of friendliness, helpfulness, and the building of extended families, to include employers, employees, friends and neighbors… I have known and become friends with a number of Idahoans, including sheep and woolgrowers. All of them have a strength of character and integrity that I am convinced is alive today throughout our land… ‘We the People’ need to be reminded of what went into Idaho, to Kansas, and indeed, into the entire United States, and rededicate ourselves to the ideas and ideals that served our forebears so well.”

What a hopeful message for our people. Bob Dole’s life and contributions should be remembered through the generations. He was a true patriot who reminded us that Americans have been through hard times before and emerged stronger than ever when we put God and country first.

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