"How are you all doing?" Senator Dole asked the line of people who stood at the side of the mezzanine level of Border's Wall Street on Friday for a signing of his book "One Soldier's Story: A Memoir" (HarperCollins). The crowd laughed when he explained why the signing would not take too long. "I have a short name," said Mr. Dole.
The book tells the humble, small-town beginnings of Mr. Dole, who grew up in Kansas with loving parents and went off to war. The defining moment in Mr. Dole's life occurred in April 1945, when, as a second lieutenant, he led a platoon in the 10th Mountain Division in Italy and was hit by either a mortar round, exploding shell, or machine gun. It tore apart his shoulder, blasted his right arm and collarbone, and injured his vertebrae and spinal cord. Like Senator Inouye, Mr. Dole was injured within weeks of Germany's surrender on Victory in Europe Day.
The book describes his three-year return to health, during which he drew on values his parents in stilled in him, as well as his own determination. The book is the inspiring story of a member of the "Greatest Generation" who won the Purple Heart while fighting to defend America's freedom and later went on to serve in Congress for 27 years.
There is an element of Frank Capra in Mr. Dole's life story: while serving in the Senate, Mr. Dole kept in his desk the original cigar box that the citizens of his hometown of Russell, Kan., had used to collect donations to help pay for his medical operation. "That cigar box and those donations reflected the culture that produced me, how we lived, and our common experience. Because I grew up in that kind of environment - a community that did instinctively what many people today regard as the government's role - I've always been suspicious of government intrusion into people's lives," writes Mr. Dole.
The book also captures some of Mr. Dole's wit, which did not always come through during the 1996 presidential election. When Mr. Dole appeared on "Late Night With David Letterman" a few days after electoral defeat, Mr. Letterman asked him, "Bob, what have you been doing lately?" Mr. Dole replied, "Apparently not enough."
When Jay Leno welcomed Susan Lucci as a guest on "The Tonight Show" after her 17th loss at the Emmy Awards, Mr. Leno joked, "She's like the Bob Dole of daytime television." At that moment, Mr. Dole walked on as surprise guest from behind the curtain. Mr. Leno pretended to be surprised and said, "How are you, Bob?" The former presidential candidate responds, "I'm fine, but Bob Dole doesn't like that joke," poking fun at his practice of speaking of himself in the third person.
As Mr. Dole notes, "Maintaining a healthy sense of humor is a key to overcoming any setback in life."
President Clinton presented Mr. Dole with the Presidential Medal of Freedom a few months after defeating him in the election. Mr. Dole began his acceptance remarks as though he were assuming the oath of office: "I, Robert J. Dole, do solemnly swear..." The press and prominent figures in attendance burst into laughter.
(VERY) COLD WAR Author Will Knutsen is visiting New York from Denmark. He is son of the late Willie Knutsen, the noted Brooklyn-born Arctic explorer. His father was born the night the Titanic sank in 1912. Before his death, he collaborated with his son on the book "Arctic Sun on My Path: The True Story of America's Last Great Polar Explorer" (The Lyons Press). The book is told in the father's voice.
From Arctic sharks to ice storms, the book is replete with adventure. His father walked across Lapland at age 19 and led the Norwegian-French Expedition, which set up the northernmost science station. There is his narrow escape from Nazi-occupied Norway. There are also adventures with animals, from being charged by a musk ox to having a polar bear steal his bologna.
"My father starts out in the age of wooden ships and dogsleds and ends up in the Space Age," Mr. Knutsen told the New York Sun. His father was famous in Norway by 1939, and later returned to America. He was a member of the Explorers Club and gave talks on Arctic exploration, even appearing on "The Today Show" in 1962.
As William Fitzhugh, director of the Smithsonian Institutions Arctic Studies Center, notes in the book's foreword, Knutsen's later career involved working for the U.S. government in a variety of defense-related Arctic activities, such as helping to establish U.S. air bases in Goose Bay, Labrador, and Crystal Two in Frobisher Bay. The book describes how Knutsen helped with airlifts to and from Europe in World War II, along what was called the "Crimson Route," named for the Allied wounded and dead. During a top-secret Cold War mission in 1957, Knutsen was placed in charge of T-3, a block of ice the size of Manhattan that floated around the Arctic.
Although the book is about his father's career as explorer, the Knickerbocker spoke with Mr. Knutsen a bit about his own life as son of a famous explorer. He attended school in Ridgewood, N.J, where he was elected student class president in high school in 1964. His campaign was engineered by David Manning, who now works as director of press relations at the CUNY Graduate Center. Mr. Knutsen later studied at the New School while living in the East Village. He has lived in California but now resides in northern Denmark, where his wife is a teacher. He is working on a novel about the Viking Age.
"Imagine Peace." That was the message of artwork Yoko Ono donated at the War Resisters League's annual dinner Friday, where Karl Bissinger and Ralph DiGia were peace award recipients. Their combined ages are over 180 years. Mr. DiGia was a World War II era pacifist who - while imprisoned as a conscientious objector - successfully fought to desegregate the dining hall of the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution and continued to fight for desegregation as the nascent civil rights movement took root. Mr. Bissinger, pacifist and fund-raiser, is a photographer who snapped shots of Marlon Brando, Colette, Jean Cocteau, and others. His photo of James Baldwin was recently the basis of a U.S. commemorative postage stamp.
Dressed in black, the Living Theater founder Judith Malina and Hanon Reznikov performed a scene of "Antigone." Artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude cut a dramatic swath through the audience that included director of the Bayard Rustin Fund, Walter Naegle; playwright Barbara Garson; Dr. Howard Levy, who was court-martialed for refusing to train Green Berets in 1967; Black Mountain-trained artist Vera Williams,two of whose children's works were named Caldecott Honor Books; writer Grace Paley; teacher and activist Norma Becker, who helped found the Fifth Avenue Peace Parade Committee, and Daniel Berrigan, who read a poem written for the occasion.
There was levity during a spoof that Sally Heron and Mayer Vishner performed called "Take Ralph Out to the Ball Game," sung to the tune of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." In the song, a guardian angel presents longtime Mets fan Mr. DiGia with the following offer: "Will it be world peace that you want? / Or the Mets to win this game?" In the lyrics, Mr. DiGia is said to respond:
"I know that world peace is the right thing to choose
But I hate it so much every time the Mets lose!"
But he roots, roots, roots for the underdog
And so, that's why Ralph exclaimed,
"Everyone! Let's toast to world peace!"
At the old ball game.