The many and varied events sponsored by the Dole Center of Politics in recent months should make the former Kansas senator proud.
This week's gathering of media and political professionals to analyze the 2006 election cycle was just the latest in a series of educational and thought-provoking events offered this fall at the Dole Institute of Politics.
Director Bill Lacy and his staff have done an outstanding job of bringing to the Kansas University campus high-profile speakers who represent a broad range of experience and political philosophies. This is in addition to the many study groups and student activities sponsored by the institute in a schedule that has made the West Campus building a hub of campus activity.
The post-election event held at the Dole Institute Thursday and Friday featured two groups of knowledgeable political figures. KU political science professor Burdett Loomis and Steven Jacques, the Dole Institute's director of programming and communications, assembled and moderated a panel that looked at state and regional elections. The group included legislators from both parties as well as consultants, campaign strategists and journalists who turned the microscope on the November elections in Kansas and Missouri.
A second panel of pollsters, political consultants and veteran journalists, assembled by Lacy and his associates, took on the national election picture, dissecting the factors that led to Democratic majorities in the U.S. Congress. The group again included strategists who have worked with candidates from both parties at the national and state levels, as well as journalists who have been covering politics in the United States for several decades.
The candid and knowledgeable discussion the panelists had with one another and members of the audience surely was exactly the kind of political dialogue former Sen. Bob Dole had in mind when he donated his papers and memorabilia and lent his name to the Dole Institute. Like Dole, the panelists discussed issues with civility and occasionally some self-deprecating humor, leading to a lively discussion with none of the rancor that sometimes seems to dominate the current political debate.
This week's post-election conference was just the latest of a notable string of prestigious events sponsored this fall by the Dole Institute, sometimes in partnerships with other campus entities. Discussions and lectures have focused on such topics as judicial independence, political fundraising, history and political movements in America. A lecture by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was a coup for the Dole Institute and KU, and an appearance by syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. drew a capacity-plus crowd to the Lied Center.
And these lectures were only the high points in the Dole Institute's ongoing schedule of behind-the-scenes tours, political study groups and student events.
Lacy and his staff have done an outstanding job of turning the beautiful Dole Institute building into a center of activity focused on civic engagement and political discussion. The events they have brought to the KU campus send audiences and participants away with a better understanding and greater appreciation of America's democratic process - and perhaps reinvigorated to be a part of that process.
Bob Dole should be proud.