Former President Bill Clinton and former Sen. Bob Dole, once political rivals, came together last week to raise money for historically Black Bennett College.
They also spoke about philanthropy in general, although the relief effort for Hurricane Katrina victims was not a major theme of their discussions. Other speakers mentioned it, however, and four women who evacuated from the Gulf Coast and who are now attending Bennett attended the fund-raiser.
Dole, a Republican from Kansas who left his post as Senate majority leader to challenge Clinton as the Arkansas Democrat sought a second term in 1996, is chairman of a multimillion-dollar fund-raising campaign for Bennett, a school for women.
His work for the school is “an opportunity to help somebody up the ladder,” Dole said.
“He does this because he believes it’s the right thing to do,” said Clinton, whom Dole invited to attend.
Clinton’s connection to the college comes through Dr. Johnnetta Cole, the president of the school, who served on his transition team after he was first elected to the White House in 1992.
The school of 570 students is trying to raise $50 million to fund scholarships, faculty recruitment and improvements on campus. Since Cole took over as president at Bennett in 2002, the college has overcome a multimillion-dollar deficit, gotten off of academic probation and increased its enrollment.
Earlier this month, Clinton hosted the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, convincing world and business leaders to commit more than $1.25 billion to address major global problems, ranging poverty to clean energy.
He also is working with former President George H.W. Bush to raise money to aid Katrina victims.
“We’re all just waiting to be asked to do something good,” Clinton said.
The men have more than their good works in common. Both are married to U.S. senators — Dole to Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., and Clinton to Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.
Dole repeatedly noted that each table had cards to fill out to donate money to Bennett, adding that he would give his card to his wife.
“Senators don’t make money, they cost money,” Clinton said.
“I know a few that made money,” Dole responded.
In front of a packed room of more than 700 people, the two also discussed higher education and bipartisanship.
The fund-raiser comes after the college received a $1 million challenge grant in July from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, which will support student scholarships. As a challenge grant, the college must match the trust’s gift dollar for dollar.
Cole also said in July that for the third year consecutive year, the college’s alumnae have donated more than $1 million to the school.
In April, Cole announced plans to resign, but changed her mind two days later after both the college’s board of trustees and students offered an outpouring of support.
— Associated Press
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