Elizabeth Dole

Senator Elizabeth Dole discusses her experiences in the White House and with the American Red Cross at the Robert Dole Institute of Politics on April 30.

In front of a crowd of nearly 120 people, former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole spoke Sunday afternoon about what it’s like to be a leader and a woman, and how the two go hand-in-hand.

The event was held at the Dole Institute of Politics, which is named after her husband Bob Dole, and kicked off the Elizabeth Dole Women in Leadership Lecture series. The series will celebrate Dole and several historic papers of hers being brought to the Dole Institute of Politics.

Among the 120 attendees were Provost Neeli Bendapudi and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. In her introduction before Dole’s speech, Gray-Little laid out the multiple leadership roles Dole herself has occupied, many of which had never been held by a woman before her.

“I’m used to that,” Dole said on being the only woman in the room. “Just doing my own thing and following my star. I advise the young women today to find what you’re passionate about. Women are moving forward in massive ways today. I was there on the cutting edge I guess.”

The North Carolina native has held positions like president of the American Red Cross, Federal Trade Commission member, public liaison assistant to President Ronald Reagan and later the first female Secretary of Transportation. She was also the first female senator for North Carolina and the Secretary of Labor for President George H.W. Bush, making her the first woman to serve two different positions in two presidents’ cabinets.

Dole Institute of Politics Director Bill Lacy led the event and asked Dole a series of questions regarding her history serving in the White House and working on policy, as well as what advice she had for women in the audience.

The experiences and trials that 80-year-old Dole discussed stood out to Andi Leuszler, a junior from Lenexa who attended the talk.

“It was an inspiration,” Leuszler said. “To hear somebody from that perspective, who went through all of these struggles and did really well and succeeded is just a nice thing to be reminded of. It’s nice to remember that we have made a lot of progress as women.”

Junior from Santa Clara, California, Victoria Snitsar said that the most inspiring thing that stood out to her was Dole speaking on how she ran for president in 2000, almost becoming the first woman to clinch a Republican presidential nomination.

“I’m planning to take her words to heart and am excited to see how I can use them in my own life and how I can follow in some of the trails that she blazed,” Snitsar said after the event.

Trailblazers such as Dole will be featured in the lecture series in the fall semesters of years to come. According to Lacy, the lectures will feature women from a variety of backgrounds who can speak on their experience in leadership roles. There was no argument, Lacy said, that Elizabeth Dole would be the inaugural speaker of the series.

“I thought today was a wonderful kick-off,” Lacy said after the event. “We couldn’t conceive of a better way to start a lecture series on women in leadership than to have the individual for who the series is named as your guest.”

Edited by Frank Weirich