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Roaming Like Oprah, Elizabeth Dole Stresses Husband’s Human Side

August 15, 1996

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Without text or electronic prompter, Elizabeth Dole walked among the delegates to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night to talk about her husband’s human side and interview some of his friends, Oprah-style.

But the carefully choreographed event didn’t come off quite as well as planned: Mrs. Dole had to resort to a hand-held microphone after her clip-on lapel mike malfunctioned, leaving many delegates shushing for quiet.

``I am going to be speaking to friends and I’m going to be speaking about the man I love. It’s just a lot more comfortable for me to do this down here with you,″ she said as she descended the podium steps.

During Mrs. Dole’s appearance, her beaming husband watched her from his hotel room on the large TV screens in the hall. She turned around and waved at him, and he grinned back.

Mrs. Dole, a polished speaker who commands $20,000 for paid appearances, was the feature attraction for Wednesday night’s session. She got a 20-minute prime time slot, by far the longest of the night.

It was an extraordinary commitment by the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign to Mrs. Dole, one that underscored her popularity and the belief that she could pull it off.

The wives of presidential nominees don’t always address national conventions; Barbara Bush spoke to the assembled GOP in 1992, but Hillary Rodham Clinton didn’t address the Democrats.

Mrs. Dole, dressed in a pale orange suit, wore a wireless microphone and moved away from the podium, an unusual performance akin to that of a talk show host.

She was to introduce people who represent key moments in Dole’s life, including Alice Kelikian, the widow of the surgeon who operated on her husband’s right shoulder after it was shattered by enemy fire during World War II.

The others were Pat Lynch, a nurse who helped Dole recover at a hospital in Michigan; Tim Steininger, a Kansan who uses a wheelchair and who inspired Dole to launch a foundation for the disabled; and Trudy Parker, a Capitol police officer whom saw Dole daily in the Senate.

Although the talk was billed as spontaneous, the four were selected well in advance and were brought to the convention hall earlier in the day to prepare for their evening roles. Mrs. Dole had rehearsed her talk.

California Gov. Pete Wilson, initially denied a convention speaking slot because of his vocal support for abortion rights, was chosen to introduce Mrs. Dole after Dole personally called Paul Manafort, the convention manager, and insisted that Wilson be given a role.

In her own personal memoir of Dole, daughter Robin Dole recalled for the delegates how her father taught her to ride a bike and drive, how he chaperoned her on dates and to a Beatles concert and how she learned trust, confidence and strength from him.

``I wish every child could grow up as I did, with a father she knew would love her without condition, keep her safe from harm, glory in her independence and drive deep in her soul an unshakable understanding of right and wrong,″ said Robin Dole, the 41-year-old daughter of Dole and his first wife, Phyllis.

Several family pictures of a young Robin with her doting father were shown on large screens while she spoke. The final photo, showing them cheek to cheek, was taken recently.

``I want with all my heart for him to be president. But that will not elevate him in my eyes,″ she said. ``He could stand no taller than he does now.″

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