Recently, I have been thinking I must have done something well in my life. I have been lucky enough at my young age to have shaken the hands of a former President and two Supreme Court Justices. The first Justice I met was Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. I attended a luncheon with a dozen other young female law students and had the incredible opportunity of speaking one-on-one with the first woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States. The second was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who recently hosted a Question and Answer Session with law students and members of the community at The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence, Kansas.
After Bob Dole lost the 1996 presidential election, he received a proposal to entrust his 35-years of congressional papers to the University of Kansas, where Dole had studied before leaving to serve in WWII. Together Dole and KU established the Dole Institute, which houses Dole's papers and also offers programs for students and members of the community to learn about American politics and public service. The building was officially opened to the public in 2003 and since then has hosted numerous national and world leaders, including President Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and former President of Poland Lech Walesa. Justice Sotomayor is not the only Supreme Court Justice to visit the Dole Institute; she was preceded by Justice O'Connor, Justice Alito, and Chief Justice Roberts.
While the Dole Institute offers an opportunity for the people of Kansas to hear famous politicians, justices, journalists, authors, historians, and public servants speak, it also offers interactive opportunities with the Dole Fellows. Dole Fellows are individuals with extensive experience in public service, who offer public study groups on a political topic. This Spring, Walt Riker (former Vice President of McDonald's) and Hon. Dennis Moore (former US Congressman for Kansas) will be the Dole's Fellows. Riker will be leading a study group on Corporate Responsibility and Moore will be leading a study group on Life in Congress.
These unique educational opportunities at the Dole Institute are quite inspirational. After a visit, Tom Brokaw had this to say:
“I was just at the Bob Dole Institute at the University of Kansas, and I recommend to everybody watching this broadcast that if you get anywhere near Lawrence, Kansas, go to the Bob Dole Institute.....and you'll see some bright young people who are entering public life or are interested in the issues of the day. And you'll see a remarkable small museum about Bob's astonishing life. It is a great tribute to a great American."In addition to the great service it provides, the Dole Institute is visually stunning. It is reminiscent of the federal buildings in Washington, D.C. It even includes a 32,000 square foot reflecting pool, similar to Washington's Tidal Basin. But even with its national influence, the Institute is still uniquely Kansan. A fourteen-foot replica of the Kansas state seal crowns the building's facade. Inside, the Dole Institute honors its namesake in the Hansen Hall with exhibits about Dole's military service, personal life, and political career. At the south end of Hansen Hall, visitors can see a soaring, 29-foot tall stained glass American flag window, and two eleven and a half foot steel columns which were salvaged from the World Trade Center and presented to Senator Dole by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The Dole Institute is a shining temple to the ideals of American history, politics or public service. Whether you stop to simply admire the architecture and exhibits or to learn from one of the Institute's many speakers and fellows, it will certainly enrich your mind and inspire your soul to those American values of freedom, democracy, and public service.
Total Time Traveled: 10 minutes
Total Distance Traveled: 2 miles
Soundtrack: "Let It Bleed" Rolling Stones