A funeral service and tribute ceremony for the late Kansas Republican Sen. Bob Dole took place in Washington, DC, on Friday, with current and former lawmakers, as well as friends and family, remembering his legacy of public service.
Dole, who had announced in February he was being treated for advanced lung cancer, died on Sunday.
The funeral service at Washington National Cathedral was attended by President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, second gentleman Doug Emhoff and several Cabinet members. Former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Dan Quayle, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Vice President Mike Pence and several current and former members of Congress were in the pews as well.
In remarks at the service, the President called Dole “a genuine hero” and a “man of his word” who “loved his country,” remembering the late senator’s life story and public service.
“We served together for 25 years (in the Senate). We disagreed, but we were never disagreeable with one another – not one time that I can think of,” Biden said. “I found Bob to be a man of principle, pragmatism and enormous integrity. He came into the arena with certain guiding principles to begin with: devotion to country, to fair play, to decency, to dignity, to honor, to – literally – attempting to find the common good.”
Biden also referenced the late senator’s concerns about the threat to American democracy, remembering Dole as someone who, though he “relished a good political fight,” served his country first and foremost “as an American.”
“He understood that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves … in that compromise isn’t a dirty word. It’s the cornerstone of democracy. Consensus is required in a democracy to get anything done,” Biden said.
“We’re bidding this great American farewell, but we know, as long as we keep his spirit alive, as long as we see each other not as enemies but as neighbors and colleagues, as long as we remember that we’re here not to tear down but to build up – as long as we remember that – then Taps will never sound for Bob Dole. For Bob will be with us always,” the President continued.
Dole’s daughter, Robin Dole, read a portion of her father’s farewell letter, which was drafted with staff ahead of his death. Robin said her family didn’t know about the letter, with the late senator drafting it with a staff member whom he swore to secrecy.
“As I make the final walk on life’s journey, I do so without fear because I know that I will again not be walking alone. I know that God will be walking with me,” the letter says.
In the letter, he calls readers “to never forget the sacrifice made not just by my generation but by all those who wear the uniform of our country.”
Former Sen. Pat Roberts and former Sen. Tom Daschle offered tributes during the funeral.
Dole’s procession paused at the World War II memorial on the National Mall, where a tribute ceremony was held. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, actor Tom Hanks and Savannah Guthrie of NBC’s “Today” delivered remarks. Former North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole laid a wreath at the memorial in honor of her late husband.
Dole served for 27 years as a US senator from Kansas and was Senate majority leader twice. A three-time presidential candidate, he ran unsuccessfully for president against Bill Clinton in 1996 as the Republican nominee. He also served as President Gerald Ford’s running mate in 1976 after Nelson Rockefeller declined to stay on as vice president.
He was a World War II veteran who enlisted in the Army in 1942 at the age of 19 and was seriously wounded while trying to carry a fellow soldier to safety. He would go on to spend 39 grueling months in and out of hospitals, recuperating from his near fatal injuries, which left his right arm permanently disabled and his left arm minimally functional. Dole, who advocated for the nation’s veterans throughout his career, received the Purple Heart twice and two Bronze Stars with an oak leaf cluster for his service in World War II.
His injuries changed the trajectory of his life, leading him to pursue a law degree and a career in politics. He served a term in the Kansas House of Representatives and later for eight years as Russell County prosecutor. Dole was elected to the US House to represent Kansas in Washington in 1960, serving four terms before he was elected to the US Senate in 1968.
After leaving public office, Dole served as the national chairman of the World War II Memorial Campaign, helping to raise millions to construct the first memorial dedicated to all World War II veterans. In his 90s – as one of the longest-living and most prominent members of the Greatest Generation – he spent his Saturdays greeting his fellow veterans as they visited the memorial in Washington after it opened to the public in 2004.
In January 2018, Dole became the eighth US senator to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress. Dole was the only former Republican nominee to support Donald Trump’s candidacy in the 2016 election, and Trump recognized his service to his country at the medal ceremony.
Following Friday’s services in Washington, the late senator’s casket and his family will travel to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland for his departure to Kansas. There will be a public viewing in his hometown of Russell, Kansas, on Saturday morning, followed by an afternoon service at the Kansas State Capitol. Dole’s casket and family are then expected to return to Washington for the senator’s internment.
On Thursday, Biden and congressional leaders honored the late senator at the US Capitol, where Dole was lying in state.
Biden on Sunday evening ordered that flags at the White House and other public buildings and facilities be flown at half-staff in honor of Dole.
CNN’s Kate Sullivan and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.