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Archive for Thursday, June 19, 2003

Stirring symbol

June 19, 2003

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The huge stained-glass flag is a fitting symbol for the mission of the new Dole Institute of Politics.

It's hard to look even at a photo of the 36-foot-tall stained-glass flag installed at the Dole Institute of Politics Tuesday without getting a lump in your throat.

The glorious flag will be the permanent centerpiece at the institute, which will be dedicated in July on Kansas University's west campus. Architect's drawings of the institute came nowhere close to doing the dramatic window justice. It is a fitting image to honor a lifetime of service by the building's namesake, former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole.

The photo on the front page of Wednesday's Journal-World also should act to whip up additional enthusiasm for the dedication festivities scheduled for July 20-22. The flag is especially appropriate because, at Dole's request, most of the dedication events will focus not on the former senator but on what has become known as the "greatest generation," the Americans who fought and supported U.S. troops in World War II.

The dedication will be the biggest event to hit Lawrence in many years, perhaps ever. Not only is it scheduled to attract such dignitaries as former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, it gives the nation a special opportunity to recognize and record the stories of World War II. A "memory tent" set up near the Dole Institute will welcome an array of World War II veterans including American Indian code talkers, members of the Tuskegee airmen, Pearl Harbor veterans, women veterans, U.S. prisoners or war, Medal of Honor winners and others. What an incredible piece of living history.

After the hoopla of the dedication, the Dole Institute, under the able leadership of director Richard Norton Smith, will provide a unique opportunity for students and researchers to learn about the political process -- not just the history, but the future. It's not about Republicans or Democrats but about the way politics works in and for America. The system is not without flaws, but it has preserved the ideals that have made this nation great for more than two centuries. The Dole Institute also will emphasize the importance of public service.

It's easy for Americans to grow impatient with what too often appears to be big-money politics that is too far removed from average citizens. Those are fair criticisms, but the nation's political system also provides important checks and balances that protect the nation from the political extremes that have been the downfall of many other governments. A dedication to public service, like that displayed by Dole, is what keeps that system alive and functioning.

America's democratic system, as well as the World War II generation who fought to protect it, certainly are worthy of celebration. Lawrence is proud to play host to such an event and serve as the permanent home for the Dole Institute of Politics.

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