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1988 Horatio Alger Award Winner

Robert J. Dole

Former Senate Majority Leader

"Involvement is the responsibility of every American of every age. Making a difference is what it’s all about. If you’re not a player, you’re a spectator."

Bob Dole was born in Russell, Kansas, in 1923, the second of four children. His grandparents were tenant farmers, and his father ran a cream-and-egg business. Young Dole mowed lawns and did other odd jobs to help pay for school books and clothing. By the age of 12, he was serving sodas at the local drugstore. His mother sold sewing machines and gave sewing lessons. When the Great Depression caused the family even more financial hardship, they moved into the basement of their home and rented the rest of the house. Dole greatly admired his parents, who taught him the traditional values of faith, hard work, and determination. He says of them, 'My father only missed one day of work in 40 years. My mother was a source of inspiration—sacrificing her comfort for others was a lifelong habit.'

While working in the drug store after school and on weekends, Dole met many doctors and decided he would pursue that as his profession. In high school, he demonstrated his leadership skills and excelled in sports and academics. He was a star basketball player and a member of National Honor Society.

With the entire family working to help pay his tuition, Dole attended the University of Kansas as a pre-med student. Halfway through his sophomore year, however, he enlisted in the Army and served as a platoon leader during World War II. In 1945, he was wounded in Italy. He spent the next 39 months fighting past the paralysis of his injuries, the loss of a kidney, and two bouts with deadly infections. When he was honorably discharged, he had reached the rank of captain.

The lasting effects of Dole's injury made it impossible for him to pursue a medical career. Still, he thought there were plenty of exciting possibilities for him. Under the G.I. Bill, he enrolled in the University of Arizona, and then attended law school at Washburn University in Topeka. A librarian there encouraged him to consider a career in public service. While still a law school student, he ran for the Kansas state legislature. To his surprise, he won. Two years later he became a county prosecutor. After eight years in that position, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, in which he served four terms. In 1968, Dole was elected to the Senate.

Dole's distinguished political career includes serving as chairman of the Republican National Committee during the Nixon administration, being selected as Gerald Ford's vice presidential running mate, and being elected by his Senate colleagues as their Republican Leader, twice as Majority Leader from 1985-1987 and 1995-1996, making him the longest serving Republican Leader in history. In 1996, he served as his party's nominee for the presidential race against Bill Clinton. Now, he serves as special counsel to a Washington, D.C., law firm. His recent projects include serving as chairman of the National World War II Memorial, which was completed and dedicated in 200; serving as chairman of the International Commission on Missing Persons; and co-chairing with Former President Clinton a foundation to assist the spouses and children of the victims of the 9-11 terrorist attack. He also supports the work of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at his alma mater, Kansas University. His books include Great Political Wit, Great Presidential Wits, and One Soldier's Story, his World War II memoirs.

Proud of his Horatio Alger Award, Dole Says, 'My generation is the keeper of the American Dream. It's our responsibility to provide the kind of leadership needed to guarantee that the dream not only survives, but also thrives in the 21 century.'