Videos & Speeches
Last month, I was at the World War II Memorial greeting a number of Kansans who had arrived on an Honor Flight and certainly want to pay tribute to each of our servicemen and women and veterans…what a great experience it was on a beautiful day at the memorial. One of those veterans was someone I want to talk about this evening to my colleagues here in the United State Senate. Getting off the bus that day was my friend and a former member of the United States House of Representatives for the Fifth Congressional District of Kansas, Dick Nichols.
There are many things I admire about Kansans—folks from my home state—they always look out for others, they commit their lives to helping and improving the lives of their communities, of our state and our nation, in order to make certain that it is an even better opportunity for the next generation. Dick Nichols—Congressman Nichols—is certainly one of those individuals, and I’d like to pay my regards to him today.
Dick was born in Kansas. He was raised in Fort Scott and served during World War II as an ensign in the United States Navy. After serving our nation with great integrity and humility, he pursued and achieved a bachelor’s degree in science from Kansas State University in 1951. Congressman Nichols is a supporter of education, but particularly a supporter of education that comes from Kansas State University—he is a Wildcat through and through.
Dick worked in a number of roles related to agriculture and banking in both Topeka and Hutchinson before he moved to McPherson, his home now. And in McPherson, he began his career as a long-time community banker at Home State Bank. He became president in 1969 of that bank, and in 1986, he was elected to serve as president of the Kansas Bankers Association. That same year, Dick got some national notoriety. He was stabbed at the Staten Island Ferry by a homeless refugee from Cuba while he was touring the Statue of Liberty. And while recuperating in the hospital, he was visited by then-New York Mayor Ed Koch who apologized on behalf of the city of New York for the event. And I always also remember that he was invited to The Johnny Carson Show to tell his story of the Kansan at the Statue of Liberty and his experiences in New York City. But even during that particular event and what he said on the talk show and what he told Mayor Koch was that he always looked for the best in every person and in every situation.
Dick continued as an active banker. He served as the president and chairman of the board of his bank until he was elected to the United States Congress in 1990. Due to reapportionment in our state following the 1990 Census—his district—the Fifth District was eliminated, and we went from five congressional districts to four, and Dick returned back to Home State Bank as chairman of its board.
But whether he was a Congressman representing the Fifth or a community banker in his hometown or as an ensign in the U.S. Navy, Dick always put service to others above self-interest. He was involved in politics. Prior to his election in office, to Congress, he was active in Kansas politics, and particularly Republican politics. In my first campaign in 1996 for the U.S. House of Representatives, it was an honor for me to have him agree to serve as my campaign’s honorary chairman.
But in addition to his political involvement, Dick was so engaged in so many other things, many of them related to the community that he cares so much about, McPherson, Kansas. And it was the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club…he became the commanding general of the Kansas Calvary…that’s a group of businessmen and women from across our state who band together to recruit and encourage new businesses to come to our state, and he continued to serve other servicemen and women and veterans through his membership and participation in the American Legion and V.F.W.
Dick has often been quoted to say, “Much of life is in our mental attitude. If you think great things might happen, they do. If you question them ever happening, they won’t!”
I agree with that sentiment and I have seen Dick Nichols live that in his life, and because of his attitude and character, many, including me, were inspired not only to get to know him, but then to try to model our public service after his.
In McPherson, there are few people more loved and respected than Dick Nichols, and it’s a privilege for me to be able to call him a friend and mentor. When I initially ran for Congress and needed advice about his community and his county, he was the first person I reached out (to), and I always remember as I was campaigning for the very first time for office to Congress, I had people tell me, “if you’re a friend of Dick Nichols, you’re a friend of mine. And it’s an opportunity that we all ought to take to remember that how we conduct ourselves influences and affects so many others.
While I know what happens here in the United States Senate, what happens in Washington, D.C., has huge consequences and effect upon Kansans and Americans, and in fact people around the globe, I continue to believe that we change the world one person at a time, and it happens in communities across my state and across the country. And Dick Nichols represents that kind of person who changes lives, in fact, changes the life of every person he meets.
So today, having seen Dick Nichols just a few weeks ago at the World War II Memorial built in his and other World War II Veterans’ honor, I want to express my gratitude to Congressman Nichols for his service to his community, to our state of Kansas and to our nation. And I use this opportunity to remind myself about the true nature of public service, about caring for other people, and I wish Dick and his wife, Linda, and their families all the very best.