April 2003 Bulletin

Dole: America inspires the world


2002-2003 AAOS President Vernon T. Tolo, MD, welcomed Bob Dole to the 2003 Annual Meeting

By Carolyn Rogers

Former Sen. Bob Dole inspired and entertained a rapt audience at the 2003 Annual Meeting with his sharp wit and compelling ideas on leadership—including his conviction that the United States retains the respect of the world’s people and must not shrink from its role as leader and symbol of freedom.

Speaking to a capacity crowd on Feb. 7, 2003, Sen. Dole offered a message of hope and optimism in a time of crisis, reminding his audience to learn from the past and to live with dignity according to the guiding principles of honor, duty, country, decency, accountability and hard work.

WWII Legacy of Heroes

As a decorated veteran and war hero, Sen. Dole fit right in at the previous evening’s "Legacy of Heroes" reception for World War II veterans at the D-Day Museum in New Orleans, and the event clearly made an impression on him. He cited the Academy’s veterans numerous times during his speech, once asking the men to stand to be recognized by the audience.

World War II was "the big one" Dole said. "It changed the world and it gave us great responsibility as the leader of the free world. In freedom, in technology, in space—most countries look to the United States for leadership."

America’s role as world leader

"In all of my years in Congress, in all of my travels, I’ve never failed to recognize that we are living in the greatest country on the face of the earth," he continued. "We’re a symbol of hope and freedom to people all over the world.

"During my last visit to the Balkans, I visited Pristina, Kosovo, where I met with a group of women whose husbands, fathers and sons had seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth — apparent victims of ‘ethnic cleansing.’"

When Dole sat down with the women, he recalled, "We were all shedding tears. They didn’t know or care who Bob Dole was—all they knew was that I was an American. All they knew was America was involved now and we were going to find their sons and husbands. That’s the kind of faith they have in America," he said.

The need for heroes

Not only does America have the responsibility to lead, Dole said, but individuals have to lead and set an example for younger generations.

"Children in this country are looking for heroes," he said. "They’re thirsty for someone to look up to." Too often today, celebrities get mixed up with heroes, he noted. "True heroes are the surgeons you honored last night—people who risked their lives for other human beings."

After being gravely injured on the battlefield in 1945, Dole returned from the war with a physical disability—something he’d never imagined would happen to him.

"When I came back with a disability, it made me much more sensitive to the needs of lot of people I’d never thought about before," he said. Dole carried this concern with him to the U.S. Congress, where he was always ready to respond whenever an issue came up that affected people with disabilities. One piece of legislation he said he’s most proud of helping to pass is the Americans with Disabilities Act.

‘Late Night with Bob Dole’

Now that he has "retired" from politics, Sen. Dole seems to be open to a second calling as a stand-up comedian. In recent years, he’s become well known for his quick, self-deprecating wit and keen sense of timing; both of which were on full display during his speech. More recently, he agreed—in partnership with former President Bill Clinton—to revive the "Point-Counterpoint" segment on the CBS news magazine program "60 Minutes."

Whether poking fun of his unsuccessful run for president, his Viagra ads or the infamous Pepsi commercial with Britney Spears, Dole kept the Annual Meeting audience chuckling. When referring to his best-selling book, Great Political Wit: Laughing (Almost) All the Way to the White House, in which he ranked U.S. presidents for their sense of humor, Dole joked that "In spite of what many of you in the audience may think, I didn’t know all of the presidents personally. (Pause a beat for laughter.) But Strom Thurmond did, so he was a lot of help!"

Dole kept the audience on its toes throughout, sprinkling even serious topics—such as the potential war with Iraq—with small doses of humor.

When discussing France’s opposition to the U.S. position on Iraq, for instance, he scored a big laugh with this quip:

"France. (Deep sigh.) France sometimes is hard to understand. Someone asked me once: ‘How many people does it take to defend Paris?’ ‘I don’t know,’ I replied, ‘It’s never been tried.’"

After a hearty round of laughter, he softened the blow slightly by adding, diplomatically, "Oh, they’ll come around—they’re good people."

Dole ended his talk on a touching and emotional note, choking up momentarily as he told the group, "I respect this audience. I respect those of my generation and other generations for all that they do. We’re lucky in this country to have the men and women in the medical profession doing what they do every day."


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