Elizabeth H. Dole has never been one to stand on the sidelines.
But as a member of the Nixon, Reagan and Bush administrations, her talents were displayed behind the scenes. Even as the president of the Red Cross and as the wife of form Senate majority leader Bob Dole (R-Kans.,) she remained outside the political spotlight.
Then, in 1996, she took time off to campaign with her husband during his bid for the presidency. During the Republican National Convention, Dole took to the floor like a talk show host, winning accolades for her performance.
Suddenly, Elizabeth Dole was America's new political sweetheart.
Many thought her charisma and charm overshadowed the stoic personality of Bob Dole, leading some to question why he was the candidate, not she.
"She is far more skilled at communicating than her husband," says Michael D. McCurry, former White House press secretary and assistant to the president.
Now, as Bob Dole has faded into the realm of Visa commercials and Viagra advertisements, his wife is hitting the campaign trail.
Today, as Dole addresses the Business School class of 1999, she is no longer simply the supportive wife of a significant political leader.
She is not solely the leader of the world's largest humanitarian organization or the assiduous cabinet member. She is a leader in many spheres and could conceivably be America's first female president.
"From her leadership of the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Labor in two administrations to her presidency of the American Red Cross, she has shown the good that one can do when they are committed to serving others," says IBM Professor of Business and Government Roger B. Porter, who worked with Dole in both the Reagan and Bush administrations.
The Southern Belle
Dole was born Elizabeth M. Hanford in Salisbury, N.C. in August 1936, daughter of one of the small town's most prominent families. During her childhood she made the rounds of a well-born Southern woman: piano and riding lessons and debutante balls.
She received her undergraduate degree from Duke University and started a political career by holding the position of student government president.
The only political science major in her entire class, Dole seemingly maintained the Southern belle mentality by being elected as the May Queen, an award for popularity and beauty.
After college, she enrolled in Harvard's Graduate School of Education, and continued on to Harvard Law School after she received her degree. As one of only two dozen women in the HLS Class of 1958, she was forced to contend with a certain degree of prejudice.
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