The center is becoming one of the university's most sparkling and valuable jewels.
Any reservations some may have had about the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University - its uniqueness, its value to the university, its potential for drawing national attention to KU and providing a unique addition to its academic environment - should have been quelled by now.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough's presentation Sunday evening was the conclusion of a three-part program. It started with Pulitzer-winning biographer Edmund Morris, who was followed a week later by biographer Michael Beschloss. The first two speakers attracted near-capacity audiences; McCullough addressed a standing-room-only crowd.
Some at KU had wondered whether a Sunday evening program could draw a crowd, but the audiences at each presentation were enthusiastic and appreciative, with many driving substantial distances to hear these three truly outstanding authors.
This is just the beginning for the Dole Institute, but it offers a sampling of the quality of speakers institute Director Richard Norton Smith plans to bring to the university.
Smith is a dreamer. He thinks big. He already has selected biographer Robert Caro to kick off next year's presidential series, and other individuals with national and international profiles have indicated a desire to participate in programs sponsored by the institute.
The dedication and formal opening of the institute will be in July. Dole's birthday is July 22, and Smith is planning events over several days that are sure to draw huge crowds.
Some at KU had hoped the institute would be a nice, cozy, somewhat private nest for the university's political science department, and the building originally was designed merely as a structure to house Dole's papers. However, Smith realized the potential of the facility and made major changes.
The purpose of the institute under Smith's direction will be to stress that public service is a noble endeavor. He wants to encourage the public to visit the center, which is located immediately west of the Lied Center.
Although the facility carries the name of and honors Bob Dole, it is not a vehicle to promote Republican or Democratic political policies. The institute is likely to become one of the most visible and visited centers on the KU campus. Programs from the West Campus building will be beamed throughout the nation via satellite technology. Its meeting rooms are sure to be in high demand for scholarly discussions.
Sunday evening's program with McCullough was a winner in every respect. He talked about the importance of knowing and appreciating our nation's history, our leaders, their sacrifices, presidents such as George Washington, John Adams, Harry Truman, and the need to encourage youngsters to learn the history of this country. He said dull classroom books should be rewritten to excite students and teachers should be more knowledgeable and more passionate in their teaching. He said parents must do a better job of encouraging their children to do well in school and appreciate the history of the United States.
Fortunately, McCullough's address is to be rebroadcast at a later date.
Congratulations to Richard Norton Smith for having the vision, enthusiasm and excitement he brings to the Dole Institute and the university. The Dole Institute is sure to become one of the university's most sparkling and valuable jewels.