LAWRENCE — Concluding the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics 10th anniversary year, the Dole Institute celebrates the official online release of The Dole Institute Oral History Project, a collection of interviews documenting the life and career of former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole.
The website represents the culmination of a multiyear oral history collecting project, begun in 2002, and made possible with support from the Andreas Family Foundation. The project seeks to provide the definitive oral documentation on Dole's political life in Kansas and his long tenure in the Senate.
With a list of participants reading like a “who’s who of politics” for the last half of the 20th century, the Project includes former President George H.W. Bush, Dole, former U.S. Sen. George McGovern, as well as Senate and House colleagues, key staffers and aides, high-ranking campaign personnel and other contemporaries during the era of Dole Senate leadership. Full audio, video, indexed and keyword searchable transcripts, as well as audio podcasts, are available online for this content.
“When Senator Dole was a congressional leader, there was an emphasis on getting work done,” said Bill Lacy, Dole Institute director. “They saved Social Security, passed the ADA and balanced the budget, among other accomplishments, and did so, on a bipartisan basis. The atmosphere of collaboration is a far cry from the partisan gridlock of today’s Congress.”
These 72 interviews, “The Dole Legacy: Leadership in the U.S. Senate,” were conducted between 2007-2009 and are the first set of the project’s interviews to be released online. Interviews were conducted by historians Richard Norton Smith and Brien R. Williams. Smith, the first director of the Dole Institute of Politics and former head of six presidential libraries, is currently a scholar-in-residence at George Mason University, Washington, D.C.
“It was during Senator Dole’s service as Republican leader that his impact was most critical and had the greatest effect on the national political landscape,” Lacy said. “These interviews focus primarily on Senator Dole’s impressive leadership qualities, his commitment to bipartisanship and, again, his ability to get things done.”
Forty-three additional interviews, “The Bob Dole Oral History Project” collected between 2002-2004, will be released online at an upcoming date. These interviews attempt to document Dole’s private persona, his political evolution, and convey a sense of historical context. Interviews were conducted by longtime Dole staffer Lahoma Yates and Richard Norton Smith. Interviewees include Kansas-based legislators, Dole volunteers, campaign workers, opposition candidates and others who worked directly with Dole during his years in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate.
Dole served in Congress for 36 years. He is the longest-serving Republican leader in the history of the Senate (1985-1996), the 1996 Republican nominee for president, and former President Gerald Ford’s vice presidential candidate in 1976. He served in many roles throughout his career, including chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance (1981-1985) and 47th chairman of the Republican National Committee (1971-1973).
The Robert J. Dole Archive & Special Collections at the Dole Institute is home to one of the nation’s largest collections of papers and artifacts for a nonpresidential politician. It contains the complete records of Dole’s political and postpolitical career, including manuscripts, photographs, audio-visual material, oral histories, textiles and artifacts. The collection is a window to the legislative process as well as a resource for Kansas history and a chronicle of late 20th century history and popular culture.
The Dole Institute of Politics is dedicated to promoting public service, civic engagement and politics. It is located on KU’s west campus and, in addition to the Archive & Special Collections, offers programming with world-renowned guest speakers on a variety of topics that intersect politics, as well as opportunities for students of all ages. All programs are free and open to the public.