When completed, the Dole Institute of Politics will be an $8 million, 28,000-square-foot facility housing more than 3,500 boxes of Dole papers and attracting nationally known figures to Kansas University's West Campus.
Friday's event paid homage to Dole, a former KU student who served 45 years as a legislator, county attorney, congressman, senator and presidential candidate.
"Today we recognize him, not only as Kansas' favorite son, but as one of America's greatest patriots," said Richard Norton Smith, who will begin as the institute's director Dec. 1.
The groundbreaking ceremony was moved indoors to the Lied Center, just east of the building site, because of cold weather. Dole, his wife, Elizabeth, Smith, Gov. Bill Graves and Chancellor Robert Hemenway dug gold-plated shovels into a plastic tub of dirt to simulate the groundbreaking.
Plans call for the building to be dedicated July 22, 2003 -- Dole's 80th birthday.
Dole attended KU for two years before joining the Army during World War II. He later returned to earn his undergraduate and law degrees from Washburn University.
Though it will house Dole's papers, the institute will be more than a library, Smith said.
"In the years to come, the Dole Institute will showcase some of the liveliest thinkers in the land through nationally televised conferences, lectures, seminars, debates and other innovative programs," he said.
"Senator Dole has influenced politics in this decade for the last four decades," Hemenway said. "Bob Dole demonstrated throughout his career that politics could be partisan without becoming hateful, principled without becoming self-righteous and dedicated to traditional values without becoming anachronistic."
Much of Dole's speech focused on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He and former President Bill Clinton have started a scholarship fund for families of those were killed.
The ceremony -- which included a color guard dressed in Revolutionary War-style uniforms and the singing of "God Bless America" -- fit with Dole's patriotic tone.
The attacks have proved that all politicians can unite for a common goal, Dole said.
"Gone is the trivialization of public life that produced a system wherein more Americans watch the Super Bowl than vote for president," Dole said. "Since Sept. 11, we have outgrown focus groups and spin doctors. Patriotism has crowded out partisanship. Can it last? That's the big question."
Dole said he never imagined when he came to KU in 1941 from Russell that he would be called to serve his country.
"The idea that the class of '45 might one day be dubbed the Greatest Generation would have seemed as foreign to us as the islands around Pearl Harbor or the Italian mountain passes in which I came of age," he said.
And he said the Sept. 11 attacks have shed light on a new breed of hero.
"As recent events have demonstrated all too graphically, you don't have to storm a beach to be a hero," he said. "Heroes come in all colors and creeds. They speak with many accents. They pray in many tongues. But this much they have in common: They put service before self. They assure our safety by forgetting their own."
A dash of humor
But not all of Dole's remarks were somber. He offered moments of his trademark wit:
l "I think I've been a pretty good ambassador (for Kansas), except the Pepsi commercials. All I say is, 'Easy boy.' It's hard to get Kansas in at all."
l On Smith: "He did work for a time at the Washington Post. Other than that, he's had a good record."
l Also on Smith: "He helped us (Dole and Elizabeth) write Unlimited Partners, which would have sold better had we won" the 1996 presidential election.
l He joked he would hide his transcript from his less-than-stellar academic career at KU in a cornerstone of the Dole Institute and not open it for 100 years -- "or maybe more. I don't want Sen. Thurman to see it."
Dole's speech was well-received by the audience of about 500.
Joan James of Overland Park, whose husband, Roger, was a fraternity brother of Dole's, said Dole was able to equate the task that the country faced during World War II with the current task against terrorism.
"History will show that Bob Dole is one of the greatest statesmen of our nation," she said.
Richard Todd of Lawrence said he enjoyed Dole's comments about the United States being the best country in the world.
"I don't think anyone here needed to be convinced of that, but he is still in the pulpit trying to help," Todd said.
For Andy Galyardt of Lawrence, Dole's visit brought back memories of growing up just four houses from him in Russell.
Galyardt said he remembered taking money he earned on his paper routes and putting it in the cigar boxes that Russell stores used to collect money to help Dole pay his medical bills after he was wounded in World War II.
"I've had the privilege of knowing Bob Dole all my life and supporting him all his life," he said.
Later in the day, Dole received the Gold Good Citizenship Medal and Commendation from the Sons of the American Revolution, the highest honor given by the patriotic organization.
Dole, chairman of the World War II Memorial committee, assured the veterans in the audience the project would be completed.
"I think that means an awful lot, especially to the veterans of World War II," said Herrick H. "Kes" Kesler, a WW II veteran and past vice president of the national Sons of the American Revolution. "He's a figurehead to so many of us."
Following the ceremony, he insisted on posing for photos with the World War II veterans in the audience.
"Thank you for your service," he told them.
-- Staff writer Terry Rombeck can be reached at 832-7145.
Staff writer Scott Rothschild contributed to this report