Clinton accepts award at KU

Former president accepts Dole Leadership Prize, students and teachers go to watch


Former president Bill Clinton gave an acceptance speech on Nov. 23 for the Dole Leadership Prize. Photo courtesy of Sam Goodwin

By Zia Kelly

The 42nd President Bill Clinton accepted the 2015 Dole Leadership Prize Nov. 23 in front of packed Lied Center that included LHS students and teachers.

The annually-awarded recognition for excellence in public service and political leadership is awarded in the name of former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who lost the presidential race to Clinton in 1996.

It was the second time this year the University of Kansas hosted White House company for a speech free to the community, following President Barack Obama’s visit in January.

“I was really excited [to see Clinton speak], I couldn’t believe it,” senior Gabe Mullen said. “I went and saw President Obama in 2013 over in Warrensburg…To see president Clinton is really exciting.”

Students have talked about Clinton in their classes, so listening to him speak in person supplemented their classroom knowledge.

“He’s…a really good speaker,” junior Alexis Kriegh said. “In [Shannon] Draper’s class we studied his rhetoric.”

During his acceptance speech, Clinton talked about the importance of bipartisanship in “the great age of interdependence.”

He brought up initiatives like the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program as well as the budget he passed in 1998 with bipartisan support, which gave millions of dollars to support the Human Genome Project, which he referenced throughout the speech.

Clinton received the award for his long-standing career in politics. He is credited for fostering economic stability during his two terms in office, as he was the first president in decades to balance the national budget and bring it to a surplus four times. He is known for his bipartisan efforts, as he worked with both Democratic and Republican majorities in Congress while he was in office. And after his presidency he founded the Clinton Foundation with the aim of improving global health and developing economies and environments.

Students weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the opportunity to see the former chief executive.

“Bill Clinton was the first president I voted for,” English teacher Shannon Draper said. “I was living in Florida at the time, and I got to vote in the re-election in ‘96.”

The Dole Leadership prize comes with $25,000, which Clinton then donated back to the Dole Institute for Women in Leadership programs. The former president’s visit ended the Institute’s month-long promotion of civic engagement.

“I think what we are seeing is that we have a thriving university population that really cares about politics, which is exemplified by the Dole Institute,” Draper said. “And to make it free to the public means that all of the voting populace has access to hearing what a world leader has to say, and I think that’s really important especially for people…who will vote for the first time in November.”