Fairfax, Virginia , United States
|| October 10, 1954
|Last Modifed||Thomas Walker|
Jul 29, 2008 01:27pm
|Info||WASHINGTON -- She was the other woman standing quietly next to Bob and Elizabeth Dole as they celebrated each primary-night victory. When Mr. Dole announced he was leaving the Senate, she was the unruffled ally standing off to the side offering unspoken affirmation. |
Robin Dole has campaigned for her dad since she was five years old and spent nearly 14 years as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill. Yet as the only child of one of the country's most prominent politicians, she has remained remarkably anonymous for most of her 41 years.
"I am happy to report that my daughter, Robin, grew up to be completely unaffected by the Washington limelight," Mr. Dole wrote in a 1988 autobiography with his wife.
Robin Dole is a volunteer at a center for troubled teen-age girls. She recently got a master's degree in psychology. She has never married, but would like to someday.
"I've spent my whole life trying to forge my own way," she said in an interview over coffee at Mr. Dole's presidential campaign headquarters. "I try to limit my own exposure because I have a life I like and don't want that to change too much."
Now she's focusing full-time on her father's latest campaign.
"It's kind of like our family business," she said.
As a little girl on the campaign trail, Robin wore a dress with an elephant patch that said, "I'm for my daddy." Nowadays, she speaks at places like civic clubs and senior citizens' gatherings, combining her personal stories about Mr. Dole with a stump speech stressing his campaign themes.
She is the daughter from Mr. Dole's first marriage to the former Phyllis Holden, a therapist who helped Mr. Dole recover from his World War II wounds. When she was just six, her parents moved from Kansas to suburban Virginia after Mr. Dole was first elected to Congress in 1960.
She describes those childhood years as mostly happy ones. She and her dad frequently played ping-pong; they attended Methodist church together; they visited a local amusement park with some of her friends.
"I remember riding the roller coaster. He was singing and laughing, and we were scared to death," she recalls. "It's hard to believe, but he was really a pretty normal father."
But Mr. Dole was absent a lot. A story often told has Robin writing a note to her father asking if she can get her ears pierced, and he answering "maybe" by checking a box. But she says now that from her perspective, Mr. Dole was an attentive father.
"We were able to spend a lot of time together in spite of the fact that he worked," she said.
There were some special times: dinners with President Nixon at the White House and a two-week trip to Europe when Robin was 13, including her first visit to the Italian town where Mr Dole was wounded in 1945. Mr. Dole taught Robin how to drive; her mother was too nervous.
When Robin was a senior in high school, her parents divorced. She said it wasn't an acrimonious split; the former Mrs. Dole has appeared at past Dole campaign events to demonstrate their cordiality.
"Any child hopes for their parents to stay together. The reality was they were not happy. Pure and simple, they grew apart," Robin says. "That happens."
She frequently visits her mother, now married to her third husband and living in Topeka, Kan. Mr. Dole's sister, Norma Jean Steele, said mother and daughter have always been especially close.
"Robin likes people, but mostly she has an attachment to her mother," Mrs. Steele says. "When they come to Kansas, (Mr. Dole) tries to arrange it so Robin can spend the night with her mother."
Amid the divorce, Robin Dole went off to study psychology at Virginia Tech. During breaks, she lived with her father in the same Watergate apartment that he and Elizabeth Dole now occupy.
"He allowed me to make decisions and be on my own," she recalls. "He did keep track of what I was doing and would make suggestions, like maybe I could come home a little earlier."
When her father started dating Elizabeth, Robin said she took an instant liking to the woman she now calls her stepmother. The three Doles frequently get together now for Sunday brunch or dinner.
"I knew immediately that I liked her, and I was judging her on one basic thing: Did she care about my father?" she said.
Over the years, Robin Dole has worked at the Republican National Committee and an oil company before starting up a Washington office for Century 21 real estate. There she remained until last year, when the company folded its Washington operation.
Now she's working to put her father in the Oval Office. Recently she completed a master's degree in psychology and hopes to have a career helping children and teen-agers. For the past 2 1/2 years, she has volunteered once a week at a center that helps troubled teen-age girls.
Steven Sheard, assistant director of the program in suburban Virginia, said she didn't mention her father's identity when she began working at the center as a graduate intern.
"I didn't know for four or five months that she was Bob Dole's daughter," Mr. Sheard said. "She's got an identity of her own that's quite separate from her father's."
ROBIN DOLE AGE 41. Born Oct. 10, 1954. EDUCATION Bachelor's degree, psychology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1976; Master's degree, psychology, Marymount University, 1994. CAREER Worked briefly at Republican National Committee and for Clark Oil Co. after college; from 1981 to 1995, ran Washington lobbying office of Century 21 real estate company. Now focusing full-time on Bob Dole's presidential campaign. Volunteers once a week at suburban Virginia center for troubled teen-age girls and plans a career in that field. PERSONAL Mother, the former Phyllis Holden, and Bob Dole were divorced in 1972. Robin is single and lives in Alexandria, Va. She has no children. QUOTE "I'm determined to help the American voters get to know my father. I know him as well as anybody. I don't really think of him as a senator, as a majority leader, or as a presidential candidate. I think of him as dad."