Robert Dole photo

Remarks at a House-Senate Dinner

June 10, 1996

Let me tell you first of all that mine's a very short speech.

[applause]

And let me thank you very much. Let me thank Speaker Gingrich for his kind words, and he's done an outstanding job. He made the revolution work.

[applause]

And David Dreier and Spence and Al D'Amato and Ken and Donna and all the others who helped put this together. We appreciate your help.

It's an honor to be here tonight and to have the honor of escorting the next first lady of the United States, Elizabeth Dole, right here.

[applause]

And it's good to see all the faces that match the names on the White House enemies list. Good to see you all

[laughter]

[applause]

As you've heard tonight from many of my good friends, tomorrow begins a new chapter in my life. And I must say as I closed down the Senate for the last time tonight, I didn't know whether to close it down or just keep it open all night. But had I kept it open, I'd have had to stay there.

But it is a place that I've loved. And many of my colleagues are here on the Senate side, plus there are a lot of candidates out there that are going to be colleagues come next January. I'll be at another address -1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

[applause]

But you'll be there.

[applause]

Now, Howard Baker tells a story that when Ronald Reagan came up there years ago — Howard you remember this story — and you showed him, you pulled back the drapes. You looked down that beautiful view in the office all the way to the Washington Monument, and Howard Baker said to President Reagan, this is the best view in town.

And the president said, no, Howard. It's the second best view in town.

And how do you think Bill Clinton's going to feel giving up the best view in town come next January?

[applause]

So I would say to everybody here tonight, I put my career on the line because I think the future of America is on the line. I feel strongly about it. And I know you feel strongly about it.

And there are dozens and hundreds of young people here tonight — 17, 18, 19, 20 — Senator Thurmond's here.

[laughter]

But it's really all about you.

DOLE: It's all about your future. And I was reminded just a few days ago, near Richmond, Virginia, as I stood there with Senator Warner, and I listened to people talk...

[applause]

We were talking to young families about affordable housing.

Now, sometimes inside the Beltway, particularly those of us in the Congress, fail to understand the importance of $65 a month. This family husband and wife and a small daughter, Amy — were looking at their dream house which they couldn't buy because they were short $65 a month.

Now, that's what America's about. It's about real people with real ambition and real hopes and real aspirations who want to get ahead in America, and they're looking to us for leadership.

And I thought to myself since President Clinton vetoed the balanced budget, interest rates have increased over one percent, and had that not happened, they could have had their dream home.

They could have had it. Instead, they're going to have to wait. And had the president signed credits, tax credits for families with children, $500 per child, they could have had their dream home. And Jennifer Dunn told me tonight when I spoke to the House Republicans earlier — I told the same story — and she said, good, we're talking about people.

And that's what I'm all about. It's not the people way up here. It's the people trying to get up there, trying to get up the ladder. And many of you in this audience made it up the ladder the hard way. I know many of the stories in this room. You made it the hard way.

And I suppose, for reasons beyond my control, I think my life gives testimony to the strength one can gain from the kindness of others.

Experience has taught me to be skeptical whenever I hear someone say they reached a goal or a milestone on their own. The truth is that you almost never do it alone. There are always others who may not claim the credit or want it but deserve it nonetheless.

And that's what we're all about. That's the kind of family I had. That's the kind of family you had — a mother and a father who worked hard. And I've said with pride many time, my father wore his overalls to work every day for 42 years and was proud of it, as I know some of your fathers or grandfathers may have done. And they gave and they gave and they gave because they wanted a better life for their kids — my brother and my sisters.

So, I think that's what this is all about. And Elizabeth — and my daughter, Robin, is here — remind me every day of the meaning of loyalty and love. And that's what it's all about.

So, I can say much the same of my political family, which is so well represented here tonight. You know, I've been coming to these dinners for a long time, and every year I'd think, maybe some day I'll go as the Republican nominee.

And I wasn't going to come tonight, and I said, well, I better go because I am the Republican nominee. I finally made it.

[applause]

I've played a lot of roles in our party: precinct committeeman, young Republican district chairman, congressman, senator, committee chairman, minority leader, majority leader, chairman of our party — but never did the job Haley Barbour's done.

DOLE: He's the greatest chairman the Republican Party has ever had.

[applause]

And in 176, I had the honor to run with Gerald Ford as his vice president. And I've probably been not in every, but probably almost every congressional district in America, some maybe several times. And always there have been the colleagues, the activists, the believers in the cause, the people you can count on year after year after year to go the extra mile for the party because it's what they care about.

I've been using the word they but I should be saying you because you're the ones I'm talking about. You're the ones who deserve credit for making our party America's majority party. Think about it — America's majority party. First time in 40 years, a majority in the Congress.

[applause]

I had another lady tonight said, you know, we need an uplifting speech.

And I think we do. And I think we know what it's all about. It's not about a personality contest between Bob Dole and Bill Clinton. It's not about who goes to Congress. It's already been spelled out what happens if we lose a majority in the House or let's say if Ted Kennedy becomes chairman of the Labor Committee in the Senate. Think about that all you people how might have been in business, or are in business.

[laughter]

There's nothing more uplifting than thinking about America, and thinking about the past and thinking about the present and thinking about the future and thinking about the people who made it great. They're in this room. As I said earlier, they were your parents or your grandparents or your children, and they went off to war or whatever. Not everybody could go off to war.

But they made a difference because they believed in America. And I go back to Richmond, Virginia, and I see these three families standing there: one who could find no home at all because of $65 a month; another young man who didn't get the house he wanted but got another one because he couldn't find another $80 a month; and another couple who'd just rarely made it.

Now if we have responsibility in this party, it's to make certain that we make the economy grow, that we make the economy grow by cutting taxes, and we can balance the budget and cut taxes at the same time. Don't let the media fool you. They're out there trying to say it can't be done. It can be done, and we will do it.

[applause]

And I guess — somebody asked me today what's the biggest disappointment you've had in your career?

I said not being able to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution because President Clinton twisted arms and twisted arms and got six Democrats who campaigned for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution to vote the other way when the time came. That's my biggest disappointment. And next year, you won't have a president in the White House who opposes a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. You'll have someone who supports it.

[applause]

DOLE: That would drop interest rates. That would get Amy the dream house her parents want.

Just one little example but they're all over America, people looking for opportunities and looking to us to create more jobs in the private sector.

There's a lot of talk about children in the administration. In fact, President Clinton, somebody said, mentioned children 46 times in a recent speech. But he didn't mention children when it came to balancing the budget or welfare reform or tax credits for families with children or a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

If we care for our children, and if we care for your grandchildren, then we've got a big, big obligation. Oh, we care about children in the Republican Party. But we know the answer's not always who can spend the most money. We can't win that contest. We have a different philosophy, but we care just as much. we're just as compassionate. We're just as concerned, and more so.

And we're not going to let the Democrats steal the issue from us, and steal our issues and rob our issues and say these are our issues.

[applause]

They belong to the Republican Party, not to Bill Clinton.

[applause]

The fact that I said we don't release advanced texts of our speech anymore because Clinton might find it and give it.

[laughter]

It's gotten to the point now that every time I'm for it, he's for it. He just stands up and says, me, too. Me, too. I'm for it.

Well, in any event, thank you for coming — even those who didn't pay.

[laughter]

[applause]

And I spotted two or three of those.

[laughter]

But we didn't need spin doctors to keep our promises, as David Dreier said earlier and Bill Paxton said earlier.

So tomorrow I leave the Senate — a decision that may have been the first big surprise of the campaign, but it won't be the last. And I will yield my seat ...

[applause]

I will yield my seat and enable a new senator from Kansas — Sheila Frahm, and Sheila may be here tonight. I'm not certain.

[applause]

But I did not take my decision lightly to move on. But I leave the Senate for the same reasons that drew me there — a sense of duty, a belief that I have a mission to fulfill for the nation we love, and an absolute certainty that I can accomplish that mission. And I have no illusions about the difficulties — the difficulties ahead of us — and I know that you don't either.

And we've been there before as a political family. But I will stay the course, as Ronald Reagan used to say. We will stay the course. And I will do what I've always done. I will tell the truth to the American people, and do everything I can to bring people together. I will not be reinvented with an election year as they're reinventing Bill Clinton on a daily basis. I will not turn against the values that shaped me and shaped almost everybody in this audience.

I will never run on a stolen agenda. And we're going to take this campaign to every part of America, to every voter, and say that America can be better and it will be better as we go into the next century.

We can have a government that favors economic growth. We can have an administration that encourages strong families and respects the middle class values that made America strong in the first place.

And we can have an America that understands its purpose in the world and isn't afraid to be a leader for peace and freedom around the world.

DOLE: And I want all of you to always remember this moment. I want you to remember when the media dismissed our chances. I want you to remember when the White House was not just confident, but overconfident to the point of arrogance.

I want you to remember that our hearts were still strong, our beliefs were still true, and our faith was still firm. I want you to remember all these things at noon-time next January when I take the oath to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, so help me God.

Thank you very much. God bless America.

[applause]

Robert Dole, Remarks at a House-Senate Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/285565

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