Local Politics

Dole remains passionate about public service

Posted October 24, 2008 4:14 p.m. EDT
Updated October 24, 2008 6:51 p.m. EDT

— A career public servant, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole has served five presidents – four Republicans and one Democrat – and she hopes to continue to serve in the Senate under a new president in January.

"It's very rewarding work when you can solve people's problems," Dole said, adding that her priorities if elected to a second term would be upgrading transportation and other infrastructure, battling illegal immigration and developing a comprehensive energy plan.

A Democrat in her younger years, Dole worked in the White House under President Lyndon Johnson. She was a member of the Federal Trade Commission under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and she later led the Department of Transportation under President Ronald Reagan and the Department of Labor under President George H.W. Bush.

She also was president of the American Red Cross for eight years in the 1990s before running unsuccessfully for president in 2000. Two years later, she captured the Senate seat left vacant by the retirement of the late Sen. Jesse Helms.

Dole insists her story is more North Carolina than Washington, D.C. She grew up in Salisbury and graduated from Duke University before getting a law degree from Harvard University and moving to Washington.

"I was very much involved in student government as I was coming along through school. In fact, I think I was president of the third-grade bird club," she said with a laugh.

She met her future husband, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, in 1972, and they married three years later.

"He came in, I looked up, and I said, 'My goodness, he's an attractive man,'" she said.

Elizabeth Dole campaigned for her husband many times, and now he's returning the favor in her close race with Democratic challenger Kay Hagan.

"I never had a career plan. It was not like here's the blueprint of my life – I'm going to be here in five years, then here in 10 years. It was a matter of finding that which you feel passionately about," she said.