Thursday, October 23, 2014

Forum speaker lauds Dole as public servant, talks political experiences that defined him

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 3/7/2014

Rather than talk about the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, Bill Lacy shared some of his top leadership advice Friday morning at the First Friday Forum in Ottawa.

Lacy, Dole Institute director, spent 20 years working in politics with President George H.W. Bush, U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, and many other famous politicians, he told the forum crowd gathered Friday at Neosho County Community College, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa. His No. 1 piece of advice was to lead by example.

Rather than talk about the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, Bill Lacy shared some of his top leadership advice Friday morning at the First Friday Forum in Ottawa.

Lacy, Dole Institute director, spent 20 years working in politics with President George H.W. Bush, U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, and many other famous politicians, he told the forum crowd gathered Friday at Neosho County Community College, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa. His No. 1 piece of advice was to lead by example.

Lacy had been retired from politics for 11 years when he got a call in 2007 from U.S. Sen. Fred Dalton Thompson, R-Tenn., who was running for the Republican presidential nomination, Lacy said. Thompson wanted Lacy to come to Washington, D.C., and reorganize his campaign before the Iowa Caucus, but Lacy said he wasn’t sure he was ready to go back into politics.

“I got this interesting call shortly after meeting with Fred from Sen. Bob Dole,” Lacy said. “He said, ‘Are you gonna do it?’ And I said ‘I don’t know. I’m a little old for this. I don’t know if I want to make that kind of commitment.’ Then he said ‘What do you do every day at the Dole Institute?’ And I said ‘I tell young people they need to be involved in politics, public and community service.’ He said ‘How can you stand before young people and tell them they’re supposed to be involved in politics, community and national service if you turn down this opportunity to go back and do something important for somebody you used to work for?’”

Reaching middle ground is something done not just in politics, but in everyday life, Lacy said, and it can be done without a person compromising their principles.

“If you’re in business, a relationship, if you have family, friends — you reach a middle ground every day of your life on some issue,” he said. “You don’t have everything your way.”

Another lesson was to never make a promise that can’t be kept — something George H.W. Bush learned the hard way, Lacy said.

“I remember working on both campaigns and standing on the floor of the Republican convention in 1988 when then-Vice President Bush gave this stem-winding speech accepting the Republican nomination for president,” Lacy said. “At one point, he says, ‘And they’re gonna tell me I have to raise taxes, and I’m gonna say no. And they’re gonna push me again, and I’m gonna say no. Read my lips. No new taxes.’ President Bush broke that promise three years later.”

If a person can’t win on the current playing field, change it, Lacy said, and that’s exactly what President Obama’s campaign did in his 2008 and 2012 election and re-election campaigns.

Historically, the Republican nominee running for president has had the most effective and efficient campaigns, Lacy said, but Obama’s campaign undermined the Republicans’ campaigns of John McCain and Mitt Romney by reaching out to people who supported Obama, but weren’t likely to vote, and got them to the polling places.

His last lesson was one Dole continues to maintain — being a public servant, Lacy said.

“Public servants never quit serving,” he said. “Look at Bob Dole. He was wounded in Italy, left for dead on the battle field, permanently disabled. He lost use of both of his hands. He came back to Russell [Kan.], rehabilitating himself and spent several years getting an education. He spent a few years working in the local community, eight years in the House of Representatives and 28 in the U.S. Senate. He ran for president three times. He left the Senate in ’96 to run one last time. He lost. He didn’t stop. Since 1996, he’s gotten the Medal of Freedom award, World Nutrition prize ... He goes every weekend to meet with World War II vets coming into D.C. on the honor flight. He’s been at it constantly, and that’s an extraordinary lesson to learn.”

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