Bob Dole turns 95 - let me tell you about my friend and a great American

Former Senate Republican leader and presidential candidate Bob Dole turns 95 Sunday. He remains an example to our country and to the world.

In a political climate driven by an obsession with airtime and winning the next election, we should remind ourselves of a man whose mission was, and still is, to make a positive difference in a person’s life every day.

Bob Dole, who proudly represented Kansas in the U.S. House and then the Senate, was a man of enormous accomplishments – far too many to list here.

He was a hero on the battlefield in World War II, gravely wounded and suffering permanent disabling injuries while fighting for the nation he loved.  He was a skilled lawmaker responsible for the passage of a great deal of important legislation, including shepherding the legislative agendas of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush through the Senate.

And long after he left elective office, Bob Dole continued to be a dedicated supporter of military veterans. Ho served as national chairman of the World War II Memorial campaign, raising funds to build the memorial in Washington. He also led the fundraising campaign for the Eisenhower Memorial in the nation’s capital.

For decades, Dole has proven that public service can truly be a noble, selfless, lifelong calling.

From my time growing up in Beloit, Kansas, Dole has been my hero. He was the giant from the Plains – the soldier from Russell – who gave us a voice at the highest levels of our government.

For the past five years, after I was a student at the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, I have been proud to call this great man – 71 years my senior – a friend and guide.

Through his ceaseless determination and optimism, Bob Dole continues to be a role model to me and to so many – showing us how to give back, and how to never quit working for what is right.

I never hear Dole complain about his age, or about the paralysis from injuries sustained in WWII. Instead, I hear the patriotism and sense of duty that drives him, and the humor that keeps those around him on their toes.

This wasn’t an easy year for him health-wise. But through it all, when I talked to him just to catch up and hear how he was doing, he’d be much more concerned with what was happening on Capitol Hill and how he can use his voice to help the causes he believes in.

And now that his strength has returned, it is not uncommon, on a Saturday afternoon on the National Mall, to see Dole sitting in the elements, waiting for the next bus of Honor Flight Veterans to unload at the World War II Memorial.

He sits along the sidewalk as each charter bus pulls up, greeting every veteran with his usual left-handed handshake, asking “How we doin’? Where ya from?” From there, they share when and where they served. Those of us watching get to witness the incredible bond that exists between those who have served our country.

Bob Dole is a giant because he has dedicated his life to serving America and the American people. He is a legend because he never forgets where he came from. He is a hero because he serves others at great personal sacrifice. He is a role model because he has always done it the right way, without animosity toward those who disagree with him.

These are just some of the reasons why we continue to celebrate him, and these are the lessons I hope more people in Washington will take from his ever-expanding list of accomplishments.

God bless you, Senator Dole. Happy birthday.

Eric Pahls is a native of Beloit, Kansas, and is currently the communications director for Carly Fiorina. Follow him on Twitter @EricPahls.