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At 72 Years Old I Am Finding Great Inspiration In The 90+ Group

Not Housebroken At 72

I turned 72 years old this week. Or — put another way — in dog years, I am now ten years and two months old.

And my long-suffering spouse would add that I’m still not completely housebroken.

In truth, the journey from zero to 72 has been something of a blur.

How Did I Get Here?

Talking Heads frontman David Byrne captured it perfectly in “Once In A Lifetime.”

You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

How did any of us get to where we are now? Luck? Fate? The invisible hand of a distant deity?

One thing is for sure: none of us got to where we are today without help from others.

Finding Inspiration In Former Bosses

Which brings me to the subject of this column: Two who inspire me to keep going.

Bob Dole

inspiration

The first source of inspiration is my former boss, Bob Dole. You might have seen him a couple of weeks ago being interviewed by CBS’s Rita Braver. Flanked by wife Elizabeth, he was the same Bob Dole I knew from my time with him in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s — sharp of mind and ready with a quip.

When, for example, Elizabeth said she was planning for his 100th birthday (he turns 98 in July), he deadpanned, “And I hope to be there.”

Bob Dole is currently battling cancer. In his case, the term “battling” is entirely fitting. He is a fighter and always has been. Left for dead on a WWII battlefield, he survived. Told he would never get out of bed in a stateside Army hospital, he refused to accept that judgment.

A Kansan from very modest beginnings, he was elected to the House and the Senate, where he eventually rose to become majority leader. He was also his party’s presidential candidate in 1996. He is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

In addition, in 1995, Congress unanimously voted to promote him from his rank of captain to colonel. “It’s icing on the cake,” he responded on hearing the news, “But I think the pay is still the same.”

But none of these well-deserved accolades is what I admire most about him.

The Importance Of Connecting With Your Constituents

In 1979, I was contacted by Gordon and Inger Hardy of Ipswich. Their son, Capt. Arthur Hardy, an Air Force Academy grad and pilot, had been missing in action over the Vietnam theater since March 1972. Would it be possible to see Senator Dole?

It was not only possible, but the senator spent considerable time with them. By this point, the Hardys knew any chance of finding Arthur alive was slim, but, at a minimum, they wanted to know what happened to their son and, if possible, have his remains returned home.

They had come to the right senator. Already active on the MIA file, he directed key aides to pursue the case. As someone who had been left on a battlefield himself, Dole wanted no one left behind.

Afterwards, the Hardys wanted to thank me. No need, I told them. Nobody needs to ask Bob Dole twice to try to intervene on behalf of a veteran. Recently, Senator Dole has been showing up unannounced at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. — a memorial he pushed to have built.   

He greets startled visitors with his standard, “How ya doing?” greeting. If the individual is a vet, he thanks them for their service. And means it.

Bill Wasserman

The other person who gives me inspiration is another former boss, Bill Wasserman. I am not going to go on and on about Bill and my inspiration, because he tells me I should save it for an obituary. But I cannot wait that long. Bill, at 93, is another force to be reckoned with.

If co-founding a local weekly newspaper seems quixotic in this digital, COVID age, you are right. Community journalism is on the verge of complete collapse in many places. But not Ipswich. Bill plays Sancho Panza to John Muldoon’s Don Quixote — and, thus far, they have the windmills on the run. 

Interestingly, when it comes to politics, Senator Dole and Bill Wasserman are polar opposites — one is a staunch Republican, the other a committed Democrat. But in terms of passion and conviction, they are kindred spirits. I can only hope to emulate them 20 years from now. After all, I will only be 13 and a half in dog years. And, with a little more training, fully housebroken.

About The Author
Robert Waite
Robert Waite
Robert is Managing Director at Waite + Co., a communications firm with offices in Boston, Ottawa and Toronto. He also teaches at Seneca College. He has more than 35 years experience leading communications, marketing and government relations functions for some of North America’s largest firms, including Ford, IBM, CAE, CIBC and Canada Post. He served as Press Secretary to Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-MA) and Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) and in the Reagan Administration. He is a three-time winner of the New England Press Association’s Best Column Award. He can be reached at [email protected].
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