Speaking at an event long after the 1996 Republican presidential bid that thrust Bob Dole into the national spotlight, the erstwhile Senator from Kansas, recalled the time he did some giant television spot advertisements (a clip from the talk is still available on Speakers.com’s YouTube channel):
“It was 1996, and you’ve been in public service all your life. I’m 35-and-a-half years in the Congress, and you kind of wonder what you’re going to do the next day. Because I’d voluntarily left the senate. The next thing I knew, I was making a couple of commercials. And I didn’t bring any samples. One guy’s already asking about that. It’s hard to carry Pepsi around in your pocket, but anyway.”
After hearing the news that Mr. Bob Dole passed away this weekend at the age of 98, I went looking for the commercial advertisement and have here reproduced a transcript of the lines Dole read for the ad:
“I’m eager to tell you about a product that puts absolute joy back into my life. It helps me feel youthful and vigorous. And most importantly, vital again. What is this fantastic product? My faithful little blue friend, an ice-cold, Pepsi Cola.”
Then an actor playing a convenience store clerk says:
“Are the revitalizing effects of Pepsi Cola right for you? Check with your local convenience store counter clerk. And start living again.”
Today, I want to buy Mr. Dole and the whole world a Pepsi Cola.
He spoke in the talk segment linked above about a book he wrote after his White House run, entitled “Great Political Wit: Laughing (almost to the White House).”
His favorite example from the book was when a rude woman reportedly told Winston Churchill that she’d poison his coffee if he were her husband. Churchill rejoined, “Ma’am, if I were your husband, I would drink it.”
How much witter would it have been if Churchill had replied something more like, “that’s treason, sedition, terrorism, mean-spirited, offensive, politically motivated, politically incorrect, and politically bad optics.”
In the segment under discussion, Dole went on tour with the sequel he wrote to that book, about American presidents, “Great Presidential Wit: (I wish I were in this book).”
Notice how Dole, self-pawns in his book subtitles, like Eminem did to winning effect at that big, final boss rap battle at the end of 8 Mile. These two white boys have been doing their Jungian shadow work.
Bob Dole’s favorite example from that book was a witticism from President Calvin Coolidge, a personal favorite president of libertarians and capitalists (Coolidge is known for saying, “The business of America, is business”).
The man of notoriously few words, earning him the nickname, “Silent Cal,” was addressed by a dinner guest, who said he had wagered a certain sum of money that he could make Cal say three words. The stoic statesman quipped, “You lose.”
These two examples say: Good humor gets the best of words.
That good humor is what Walt Disney must have seen when he observed the generation of Americans that Bob Dole grew up with within the nation’s heartland.
Hampar Kelikian (January 17, 1899, Hadjin, Ottoman Empire July 24, 1983, Chicago, Illinois) was an Armenian child who carried all these characteristics into his profession as an American grown-up.
An orthopedic surgeon, he worked with injured World War II veterans and helped in the continuing effort to save Bob Dole’s life after Dole returned from Italy because a shell fired by a battlefield enemy had shattered part of the young Dole’s collarbone and part of his spine.
Dole once said that before he met Kelikian, he was “not ready to accept the fact that my life would be changed forever.” But then the meeting of these two individuals led to what many people would call a miracle, “Kelikian inspired me to focus on what I had left and what I could do with it, rather than complaining about what had been lost,” having “an impact on my life second only to my family.”
Rest in Peace, Mr. Dole. You have no idea how many people saw your example on television in 1996. And Rest in Peace, Mr. Kelikian. You are the real MVP.