Washington (CNN) - Hundreds of his former colleagues, aides and people from across the political aisle gathered in Washington Friday evening to honor former Republican Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, who marked his 50th anniversary of being elected to Congress.
Dole, a native of Kansas, told the crowd he got into politics by accident.
The 88-year-old said he had one guiding principle.
"I have found in my political life the one word that means a lot is trust. You have to be willing to trust one another if you are going to get anything done."
He told the audience being rigid is not something that leads to achievements.
"You have to have a little flexibility," Dole said. "Sometimes you have to give a little."
Dole also said some keys that helped him reach agreements with Democrats are missing today–and the nation is suffering.
"Some of the trust. Some of the friendships... I think we can do better, and I believe we will."
The occasion was a fundraiser for the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas.
Luminaries who came to honor Dole included fellow Kansans Sen. Pat Roberts and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelieus as well as his former Senate colleagues Donald Riegle, Pete Domenici and John Warner.
Among the achievements they highlighted was his fundraising leadership for the building of the National World War II Memorial.
"You have touched so many lives, and we are grateful for it," Roberts said.
Dole has suffered from several illnesses in recent years, and spent 11 months at Walter Reed Army Hospital in 2010 after a bout with pneumonia.
"I never really thought I wanted to spend that much time there," he joked. Dole said he is recovering well and able to get around better.
In his remarks Dole showed his trademark humor. Though he left the Senate voluntarily in 1996 when he ran for the presidency, Dole noted, "I didn't leave politics voluntarily."
He lost the general election to Bill Clinton and joked that he'd often ask Clinton for a recount.
Explaining that he may phone one or two people a day or find other ways to be involved, Dole said he still works to have an impact because he can say "I made a little difference."
The Institute houses Dole's congressional papers that span his 35 years of congressional service. It also hosts a wide variety of programs and speakers to encourage public service by young people.
You can follow Kevin Bohn on Twitter @KevinBohnCNN.
I never paid attention to him,but his wife ruined the Red Cross and was a HORRIBLE senator (ranked 100).
Bob Dole wouldn't be a good Republican today. He had an "honest streak" and a sincere devotion to America. He must be disgusted with the modern conservative and their willingness to harm the middle class in support of the rich.
Too bad Dole's words of being flexible and understanding what it means to compromise fell on the deaf ears of the GOP-baggers. Today's Republicans act nothing like the Republicans of Dole's era, it's all about power now, and the bloodthirsty desire the GOP-baggers have to force their backward ideology on the country.
wow...TIME sure has fallen hard on his head!
I hosted Bob Dole at an event at the school in which I was Principal when he ran for President in 1996–Remember when he mixed up the Brooklyn Dodgers with the L.A. Dodgers?-
While we disagreed on just about every policy you could imagine...I found him to be a reasonable person who believed that governance must address the middle-he was willing to give a little...to compromise in the interest of the majority of the American people.
He also was a military vet–he knew that in a foxhole, you didn't care who was a Republican and who was a Democrat–you just hoped that they shot straight.
The sad tragedy is-Bob Dole would be drummed out of the Republican Party of 2011-
Bob Dole is a true American Patriot...
Where are the Republican Patriots today?
He looks like death warmed over...
Dole is a real republican that cares more for his country than his party. I say this with respect, which I have little of for the republicans of today who are bowing to the tea party.
What – no one has a comment?
Look out, it's a walker!
It's a shame that the current crop of politicians could not take lessons from these old-timers.
Where have you been Mr. Dole?!? The GOP sorely needs the "republicans of old" to step up to the table and beat back the looneys who are "legends in their own minds". Someone within the republican party needs to tell the emperor that he has no clothes!! Where is Colin Powell? Where are the great minds of the republican party? 2012 is a lost election for the GOP. Time to start regrouping for 2016. Cleanup the image. Become more inclusive. STOP the voter supression initiatives. STOP the sellout to big money. STOP the SCOTUS foolishness like Citizens United. Just STOP it! Or, the GOP will morph into a really ugly, nutty, joke of a political party.
Who EXACTLY is going to "honor" the man?
Clearly not today`s Republican Party. Clearly not the Party of No. Clearly NOT the70 – or so – hostage taking Tea Party members of the House.
Let`s cut to the chase. Dole is trying to tell the GOP to drop the Tea Party faction and terrorist tactics. That is age & wisdom speaking – something many old folks have long espoused America embrace. If you believ that, for the sake of America, VOTE the GOP OUT OF OFFICE in 2012 & 2014.
They have NO ideas, they have NO leaders, they refuse to work towards any solution. Why would we citizens want to reward that!?
I promise you, the only way to SAVE the Republican Party is to FIRE THEM in mass through 2016. By then they will have developed some "A" players [ instead of Palins, Bachmanns, Cains, Perrys, or Romneys] AND some intellectually cogent solutions. Bob Dole knows it too – he`s just expressing it a different way.
Decades of Service? What did he achieve? Absolutely nothing. What did he introduce in legislation? Nothing. Did he introduce Term-Limits on Senate, and Congress. No. Because it brings waters underneath his seat. Did this dude introduce Anti-Lobby law? No. How about Fin. Reg. Reform. Again answer is No. Did he introduce ailing Health Care that is being robbed by Insurance thugs? Again answer is No. Shame, Decades of Service. Nonsense. My brain, tummy bugles....idiots.
I did not know he was still alive.
what did he do? Absolutely Nothing. Shame Shame America, shame....did he introduce any health care legislation, or fin. reg. reform, or senate and congress term limits reform, or medicare fraud curtail, or anti-lobby law. Nothing...shame. Wake up, America. don't give credit because he is there on seat for long time. o.k,
I admire Mr Dole for his years of service to our country–both military and political. After his loss to Bill Clinton, he handled himself with dignity and grace. We need more of that today in our polarized political climate
People like Bob Dole and all the RINOs and liberals are the reason the country is going down the drain. These people could have said "DON'T TREAD ON ME" instead they took our freedoms away.