Savannah Guthrie paid touching tribute to Bob Dole as a "flesh-and-blood monument" to service and integrity while sharing some sweet moments from their friendship in a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in the nation's capital on Friday.
The former U.S. senator, presidential candidate and World War II hero, who died at 98 on Sunday, was a driving force behind the construction of the memorial on the National Mall in 2004.
It served as a fitting place for a tribute to a man who gave his life to public service.
“This monument is made of stone," Savannah said in her speech. "His life was a flesh-and-blood monument to the values that we revere here."
Savannah developed a close friendship over the past few years with Dole and his wife of 46 years, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, 85, whether it was having them open up on TODAY about their love story that began back in 1972 or speaking with Elizabeth about championing military caregivers as part of her work with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.
She shared some moments from their relationship, whether it was the Doles sending her family treats, books and notes of encouragement, or the two families managing a chaotic FaceTime call with the Doles, their rambunctious dogs, and her daughter, Vale, and son, Charlie, who were 5 and 3 at the time.
Savannah also remembered Dole's famously wry sense of humor when she told him she was anchoring TODAY from her basement during lockdown in the early days of the pandemic.
"He didn't miss a beat and said, 'Well, I guess you really hit rock bottom now,'" Savannah said.
She also spoke about Dole's qualities in his public life.
"We are all here this afternoon because Bob Dole stood for something," she said. "He stood for principle, he stood for dignity, he stood for integrity, he stood for friendship, he stood for his country that he fought and bled for."
Savannah highlighted his love story with Elizabeth, calling the connection between them "eternal and unbroken."
"It is how you will hold hands with him until you meet again," she said.
Savannah also shared earlier on TODAY Friday that she visited Elizabeth at her home on Thursday night ahead of the funeral service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
"She's full of gratitude and joy, but yes, she's full of grief, too," Savannah said. "This is the love of her life. I think the way people are remembering him is really touching her and providing a great deal of comfort."
Dole dedicated his adult life to public service, much of it as a member of Congress. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1961-69 before a 27-year career in the U.S. Senate that included stints as the Senate majority leader.
He also served as Gerald Ford's vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket in the 1976 election. He ran again as the Republican presidential nominee in 1996 in the election against Democrat Bill Clinton, who was in attendance at Friday's funeral.
Following his death, tributes poured in from President Joe Biden and all the living former presidents as well as current and former congressional leaders. Biden and congressional leaders honored him at a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday as Dole lay in state.
Biden eulogized him on Friday, calling his longtime congressional colleague a “giant of our time and of all time.”
Dole's political career began after his service in World War II, where he was awarded two Purple Hearts and two awards of the Bronze Star for his actions.
He suffered serious injuries in 1945 when he was hit by German machine gun fire while trying to rescue an Army radioman and suffered a shattered right shoulder and injuries to his neck and spine while also losing a kidney. He never regained the use of his right arm and had partial numbness in his left arm due to his injuries.
Oscar winner Tom Hanks followed Savannah with a speech about Dole's integral role in the creation of the World War II Memorial, his bravery while in the military and his tireless work to rehabilitate his injuries the best that he could.
"When Bob Dole fulfilled his duty in that war, which burned up half the world, the cost he paid was a hard one for him to bear," Hanks said. "He lost the use of a limb and part of his once-strong shoulders on a cold mountainside in Italy to an enemy who was trying to kill him. They failed."
Dole's body will now travel to his native Kansas over the weekend for a series of public events before he is ultimately interred at Arlington National Cemetery.