I was thankful to attend the funeral for Senator Robert J. Dole at the Washington National Cathedral yesterday. His life was a testament of public service that we would all do well to emulate.
Senator Dole Funeral Reflections
Dole’s flag-draped casket was placed in the U.S. Capitol rotunda on Thursday, but mourners were not allowed to pay their respect due to COVID-19 concerns and lingering concerns about the 1/6/21 insurrection. The Capitol has remained closed to the public for the longest period in U.S. history.
The funeral at the Washington National Cathedral was not officially a state-funeral, but followed much of the same protocol, with the pomp and circumstance afforded only to the most lauded statesmen in U.S. history.
How Did I Attend?
On a whim, I reached out to an old contact who used to mentor me when I worked in the White House. He was close with the Dole family and was able to secure a ticket for me to attend the event.
What Was Security Like?
I took an Uber from downtown up to the cathedral at 9:00am, as the ticket indicated doors opened at 9:00am. Arriving about a block away, I got out of the car and was directed by Secret Service toward a tent in which a security check took place.
Walking toward that checkpoint, a member of the cathedral staff asked to verify my ticket. Reaching the front of the line, I went through a metal detector and was patted down by a member of Secret Service.
Past the checkpoint, I walked into the cathedral where an usher greeted me and offered me a program. A uniformed Army soldier, who told me he would be part of the team performing a 21-gun salute later that day, again examined my ticket and escorted me up to my seat, which was near the front.
Tickets were color-coded and seating was determined on that basis.
Another usher checked my ticket again and assigned me a seat about 15 rows back from the front.
The funeral was supposed to begin at 11:00am, but was delayed a bit because President Biden and Dr. Biden were late. Once they entered, the funeral began. Masks were required inside the cathedral.
The liturgy of the funeral is beautiful and familiar, you can review the order of service here, if you are interested.
I sat next to a former Dole staffer who is now a law school professor. She explained to me that Senator Dole took networking to a whole different level and would help former staffers secure jobs in both the private and public sector, but then stay in touch and lean on them if ever needed help. This was echoed by his longtime Chief of Staff, Sheila Burke, who briefly spoke after reading a poem.
President Biden’s speech was a touching tribute to a friend and channeled the type of bipartisanship and spirit of grace and compromise that, in my view, is needed to govern in a very divided nation.
My favorite speech was that by Robin Dole, a beautiful tribute of a daughter who loved her father to a father who clearly loved his daughter. That is the high calling of every man who has children and Dole was more than just a statesman, but a good husband and father.
The Senate Chaplain, Reverend Dr. Barry C. Black, gave a powerful homily (if you’ve never heard him speak, he is perhaps the most amazing orator I have ever heard).
This was a beautiful funeral and I appreciated the selection of hymns. The funeral concluded with Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the USA.”
A Salute To Senator Dole
Why would I come from Los Angeles to Washington to attend the funeral of a man I did not know personally?
For the same reason I traveled to honor other great icons of American life like George H.W. Bush and Ruth Bader Ginsburg: because we need to respect institutions and civil servants if we hope to encourage more to follow in their footsteps.
The beauty of sitting in a cathedral filled with both Democrats (including a current and former Democratic President) and Republicans is that we can put our differences aside to honor those who have sacrificed so much for country.
And Bob Dole is worthy of that praise. Dole was born in a three-room (not bedroom) house in Kansas in 1923. He shared a bedroom with his three siblings.
In 1945, Dole reported for military duty after graduating in 1944 from officer training school. As a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he joined the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and was sent to Italy, where he saw combat.
On April 14, 1945, Dole was severely injured when an exploding shell smashed his right shoulder, crushed his collarbone, punctured a lung, and damaged vertebrae that paralyzed Dole from the neck down. Doctors doubted he would survive and he spent 39 months in hospitals.
Miraculously, Dole did survive and even became mobile again through a strenuous physical regimen. He also became an attorney. By 1960, he was elected to Congress.
In 1964, Dole voted for the Civil Rights Act and in 1965, for the Voting Right Act. He also fought hunger in the USA and aboard. In 1968, he elected to the U.S. Senate. Over the next two decades, he crossed the aisle to work on child nutrition and food stamp bills and later to help save social security from insolvency and pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He ran unsuccessfully for President in 1980, 1988, and again in 1996, when he did become the Republican nominee but was trounced by Bill Clinton. But rather than end his career, he continued his public service, pivoting toward the creation of a National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.
That beautiful memorial stands today a testament not only to the thousands of Americans who gave their lives during WWII to protect and defend freedom, but to Dole himself, who would often be seen there greeting veterans on a Saturday morning.
With deep respect for Senator Dole and his public service, I was pleased to set aside part of my day to honor him at his funeral. Let us all join in recognizing Dole for his service to the nation and emulating him by helping those in need wherever we see the opportunity.