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‘When I think of the greatest generation, I think of Senator Bob Dole’: Utah leaders reflect on Dole’s lifetime of service

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Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, of Kansas, right, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, meet reporters in 1995.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas, right, and Sen. Orrin Hatch. R-Utah, meet reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 28, 1995, after attending a Republican caucus. Dole died Sunday at age 98.

John Duricka, Associated Press

On Sunday, longtime GOP Sen. Bob Dole died after a battle with lung cancer. He was 98.

Utah leaders expressed their condolences later that day, some taking to the internet to share stories or lessons learned from the senator. And on Monday, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox ordered flags across the state to be lowered to honor Dole.

Dole’s political career started in the 1950s as a Kansas representative. He would go on to represent Kansas in Congress for 36 years, serving four terms in the U.S. House before winning a Senate race in 1968. He launched three runs for the White House, his last in 1996 when he lost to former President Bill Clinton.

A World War II veteran, Dole was shot in the right arm while fighting in Italy, leaving him with lasting injuries that prevented him from shaking hands, and likely shaping his political career. His efforts in Congress would later spur the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“When I think of the greatest generation, I think of Senator Bob Dole — a man who dedicated his life to serving our country,” wrote Utah Sen. Mitt Romney.

Dole endorsed Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012, and at a rally in 2014 told the crowd “I want him to run again.”

Retired Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who served alongside Dole for nearly two decades, called him “a model of humility, hard work, and reliable statesmanship, and I am incredibly grateful to have called him a friend,” in a statement Sunday.

Hatch sponsored the Americans with Disabilities Act with Dole, and called it “a shining example of our ongoing commitment to equality for persons with disabilities.”

Utah Sen. Mike Lee took to Twitter Sunday, sharing a story of the time Dole gave him a keychain with his engraved signature that would end up being one of Lee’s “most prized possessions.”

“Americans are fortunate to have been blessed by Bob Dole’s lifetime of military and government service,” Lee wrote.

One of Lee’s opponents in the upcoming 2022 election also expressed condolences on Twitter Sunday. Evan McMullin, who as an independent won more than 21% of the presidential vote in Utah in 2016, called Dole a “great patriot ... who humbly sacrificed in all respects for our nation — in war, in public service, and in private life.”

Utah’s governor called Dole “an American hero and exemplary public official.”

“Our country could desperately use more selfless servants like him,” Cox wrote on Twitter.

Representing Utah’s District 3, Rep. John Curtis called Dole “one of our greatest. His valiant service from the military through Congress leaves a legacy for generations to come.”

Salt Lake County Councilwoman and former Utah gubernatorial candidate Aimee Winder Newton offered her “deepest condolences to his family.”

On Sunday, President Joe Biden ordered White House flags and other public buildings to be flown at half staff. Biden also released a statement calling Dole a friend, war hero and “American statesman.”

“Bob was an American statesman like few in our history. A war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation. And to me, he was also a friend whom I could look to for trusted guidance, or a humorous line at just the right moment to settle frayed nerves,” Biden said. “I will miss my friend. But I am grateful for the times we shared, and for the friendship Jill and I and our family have built with Liddy and the entire Dole family.”

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The U.S. and Utah state flags fly at half-staff at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. Gov. Spencer Cox order the flags lowered in honor of the late Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., who died Sunday.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News