After an introduction by PAC Coordinator Ellen Krahn '06, Dole took the stage. Dole likened Northfield to the small town in Kansas where he grew up, calling the residents of Northfield, "nice, good people."
Dole began his speech with humor, poking fun at himself by discussing his loss in the 1996 presidential election, his endorsement deals with Pepsi and Viagra, and his age. Of his endorsements for Pepsi, he said, "It's hard to carry a Pepsi around in your pocket."
Dole told the audience about several books he helped compile with political humor. He explained that Abraham Lincoln was considered the funniest president despite many personal and political hardships during his presidency. Dole said Lincoln was a "storyteller, not a quipster." Other funny presidents Dole mentioned include Ronald Reagan and Calvin Coolidge, who were notorious for not saying anything.
Early in his speech, Dole asked the audience to acknowledge the World War II veterans in the crowd. Dole, a veteran of the war himself, sustained an injury to his right arm two weeks before the end of the war. For a portion of his speech, he spoke about "the greatest generation" and its sacrifices during World War II. He specifically mentioned his book, "One Soldier's Story," saying, "I wrote it not to write about Bob Dole, but to write about that generation."
The book details the story of his recovery from his injury. He said of his generation, "There were great obstacles to overcome, but we were ordinary, run-of-the-mill people."
Dole compared the current generation of soldiers fighting all over the world to his generation, commending their sacrifice. "Generation X is now the greatest generation," Dole said.
In an interview before his speech, Dole named education as one of the most important issues for college-aged people to be aware of. Addressing the role of the government in funding higher education, Dole said that the government already does a lot.
He explained that he, like many of his generation, gained the opportunity to go to college from the GI Bill. Dole expressed the hope that "everybody will have the opportunity to go to college."
Dole named issues that he felt are pressing for the current generation, including HIV/AIDS and hunger. He also addressed the current situation in the Middle East, saying that he hoped the United States would not have to invade Iran.
In the earlier interview, Dole said of Iran's recent nuclear advances that he hoped the United States and the United Nations would use "every bit of diplomacy."
Dole concluded his speech by praising his personal hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Dole made several humorous comparisons between himself and the former president, but ultimately said he desired to model himself after Eisenhower's leadership. Dole described Eisenhower as a man who did not pass the buck, but took responsibility for his actions.
"In the end we are all called to be leaders," Dole said.
The audience was invited to ask Dole questions following his speech. Topics ranged from the recent immigration legislation to military efforts abroad to his childhood ambitions.
Dole acknowledged that immigration has become out of control, but that deporting 12 million illegal immigrants presents a huge logistical challenge. Dole said of the war in Iraq that its cost cannot be sustained, but that immediately pulling out of Iraq is not feasible: "If we're ever going to have any credibility around the world, we've got to keep our word."
Dole said that he wanted to be doctor like the three physicians in the town he grew up in when he was a senior in high school.