My summer with the Senator

Posted on Jul 22, 2013 in Alumni News, Career/Life, and News

For one glorious summer before my senior year at KU, I worked on Capitol Hill as an intern for then-Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum. The Kansas contingent worked closely together, so I got to know many of the hardworking staff members in the Senate Minority Leader’s office when Senator Bob Dole’s influence was at its peak. Politics aside, I recall him holding the respect of everyone in Washington as one of the elder statesmen of the Senate, two years before his presidential bid came up short. It was the summer of 1994: Bill Clinton was in the White House, Dole and Ted Kennedy were Senate stalwarts and Strom Thurmond was still going strong. It was a great time to be in D.C.

Dole_ballAmong the cherished memories I took from my time in Washington, one keepsake still sits in a bookcase in my office. The summer softball league on Capitol Hill is fiercely competitive, and the season finale featured the two teams representing the Senators from the great state of Kansas. The Senator Nancy Landon “Kassebombers” were pitted against the Senator Bob Dole team-without-a-cool-name. While they may not have been political rivals, on the diamond it was a different story.

The hard-fought contest played at sunset on the Mall came down to the final out, which—as fate would have it—happened when I tagged a Dole staffer out at second base. Walking off the field holding the game ball, I decided it would be fun to have both Senators sign the game ball. They did, but it took some work. Senator Kassebaum, of course, relished the request; however it took a few days before a Dole staffer worked up the courage to ask the Senator for an autograph commemorating the losing effort. Senator Dole, always a good sport with a great sense of humor, honored the request with a smile, vowing to whip us the next year. The ball is something I cherish as much as my time working on Capitol Hill with two great senators.

Happy 90th birthday, Senator Dole.

—David Johnston

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