Sunday, May 17, 2009

Senator Elizabeth Dole: A Life of Public Service

Senator Elizabeth Dole

Mary Elizabeth Hanford Dole was born in Salisbury, North Carolina on July 29, 1936. She went on to attend Duke University, where she was a member of Delta Delta Delta. She did her post-graduate work at Oxford and upon leaving Oxford, took a job as a high school teacher in Massachusetts while pursuing her Master's Degree in education at Harvard. While there, she also graduated from Harvard Law School. In 1972, she was introduced to Senator Bob Dole, who would become her husband three and a half years later.

Dole began working in Washington DC during the last years of the Lyndon Johnson administration and stayed on to work for President Richard Nixon. Under Nixon, she served as Deputy Assistant for Consumer Affairs and was later appointed to the Federal Trade Commission. In 1975, Dole made the decision to become a Republican and campaigned for her husband who ran as Vice President with Gerald Ford on the Republican ticket in 1976. In 1980, she left the White House to support her husband's run for President.

During the Reagan years, Dole served as director of the White House Office of Public Liaison before becoming the first woman to be appointed as Secretary of Transportation. During her time as Secretary center high-mounted stop lamps became mandatory on all new cars She worked with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to withhold federal highway funds from any state with a drink age below 21 and privatized the national freight railroad.

When President George Bush was elected to office in 1989, Dole served as the Secretary of Labor. Two years later, she became president of the American Red Cross where she served for eight years. During that time, she once again campaigned for her husband's bid for the presidency in 1996. In 2000, Dole, herself, ran for President but dropped out of the race before the primaries began. She was later believed to be among the choices of potential Vice Presidential candidates before President George W. Bush finally chose Dick Cheney.

This led Dole to set her sights on her home state of North Carolina. Even though she had not actually lived in the state in over 40 years, Dole won the Senate race by a large margin. In 2004 she became the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. During her time in the Senate, she served on the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services where she was able to prevent any North Carolina military bases from being closed. She also served on the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Aging, and the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Dole ran for Senator again in 2008, but lost to Democrat Kay Hagan.

Elizabeth Dole has written two books: Hearts Touched by Fire: My 500 Most Inspirational Quotations in 2004 and along with her husband, Unlimited Partners: Our American Story in 1988 (though it was re-released in 1996). Recently, the Dole's spoke at the University of Kansas. Elizabeth Dole told the crowd she began getting involved in politics when she was in high school and served the student government. She went on to become the class president during her senior year at Duke. "The whole world of public policy and politics was like a magnet to me," she said as she reflected on her many years of public service.

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