John Block: Senator Bob Dole

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

Today, my subject is Senator Bob Dole (Kansas). Two weeks ago, he received the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest award bestowed by the U.S. Congress. Very few individuals have been so honored. The Senator is a decorated World War II veteran and served in the U.S. Congress longer than any other Republican.

I thank him for all of his service to our country, but I also thank him because without his effort, I would never have had the privilege to serve as President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Agriculture.

In the fall of 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the U.S. At that time, I was Director of Agriculture for the State of Illinois. I picked up the Wall Street Journal and began reading. Senator Dole was asked by a reporter: “Who should President Reagan consider for Secretary of Agriculture?” The Senator suggested 8 or 10 names. I almost fell off my chair, as I was on the list.

I had never met Senator Dole. I decided that I needed to meet him. I called his office, was granted an appointment, and went off to Washington, D.C. We had a very nice discussion, and he arranged for me to meet some other Republican Senators. Within days, Senator Dole sent a map marked where all of the choices for the President’s Cabinet were from. They were all from the east coast and west coast. Middle America was left out. Senator Dole advised Ronald Reagan. He said, for Secretary of Agriculture, we need a “hands on farmer from the heartland.” Please consider Illinois farmer John Block for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

Within 3 or 4 days, I got a call to fly to California and meet with the President-elect. I was to go to his home in Pacific Palisades, California. I rang the door bell and Nancy opened the door. After a 2-hour interview with Mr. Reagan, Ed Meese and 2 other advisors, I went back to my hotel. The phone rang and Ronald Reagan said, “I have decided that I want you to be my Secretary of Agriculture.”

Almost speechless, I was able to say, “Mr. President, I would be proud to serve.”

Senator Dole has done so much for our country and people all over the world. They would like to thank him. I extend my personal thank you and God bless America.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill. If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit

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