I was just a freshman in high school when Bob Dole ran for president. I watched that campaign very closely in part because my older brother worked on his campaign.
After the election, my parents displayed a picture in our family room of my brother standing next to Bob and Elizabeth Dole. My brother once told me that when Dole retired from the Senate, every member of Congress signed his card as a show of respect.
Dole had many friendships on both sides of aisle. Dole first met two of his future Senate colleagues while they were all recovering at the Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, Mich.: future Sens. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Philip Hart, D-Mich.
Dole would spend the next three years of his life in various hospitals recovering from his injuries. According to Dole, "Phil was less severely wounded, and he would tirelessly spend all day running errands for the rest of us. He was, without a doubt, one of the finest men I ever knew."
A few years ago, Bob Dole praised his lifelong friend Daniel Inouye:
"Recovering from combat wounds can be a long, painful and often emotionally challenging process. It’s hard to describe the importance of having a close friend who can be a confidant, an empathetic ear and a good distraction. We played a lot of bridge, and Danny was as good as they come."
Senator Inouye lost his arm in World War II. He fought in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was the most decorated unit in American military history and was almost entirely comprised of Japanese-Americans.
Bob Dole never fully recovered the use of his right arm. When Dole served in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division in World War II, he was decorated with two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star for his valor.
Dole’s friends in Russell, Kan., gave him enough money to travel to Chicago.
In 1947, he met Dr. Hampar Kelikian.
Kelikian was an Armenian-American who lost much of his family during the Armenian genocide. He also lost his brother in World War II.
Kelikian wanted to thank the country which gave him a new life by providing free services to the veterans of World War II. After seven surgeries, Dole and "Dr. K" became friends for decades.
Through this deep friendship, Dole learned of Kelikian’s family and the Armenian genocide. It also contributed to his strong support for recognizing the Armenian genocide and his views on Bosnia.
In an 2002 interview, Samantha Power talked about Dole’s 1989 visit to Kosovo where he saw Serbian forces use tear gas against Albanians. In the interview this prominent Democrat gave Republican Bob Dole considerable praise for being "the conscience of the Senate on Bosnia."
He wasn’t just the conscious on Bosnia, but he came to personify a Senate that was far more bipartisan than it is today. He worked with Democrats George McGovern on expanding food stamps and Hubert Humphrey on school lunches.
In 1988, he had a bitter fight for the Republican nomination with George Bush. When Bush died in 2018, Dole was helped out of his wheelchair long enough to salute him.
In 2000, Dole returned to the Senate and gave a lecture about his distinguished career:
"In my lifetime, I have seen American dreamers, many of whom pursued their dreams in the Senate, crush Nazi tyranny, destroy Jim Crow, split the atom, eliminate the scourge of polio, feed the hungry, house the homeless — with the Byrd-Dole bill, it happened to be — plant our flag on the surface of the moon, and belatedly yet emphatically recognize the talents of women and others once excluded from the mainstream."
From experiencing so many of the horrors of the 20th century, Dole had great faith in the future of this country. As long as our country can produce patriots like him, I think we still have good reason to be optimistic about America’s future.
Robert Zapesochny is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on foreign affairs, national security and presidential history. He has been published in numerous outlets, including The American Spectator, the Washington Times, and The American Conservative. When he's not writing, Robert works for a medical research company in New York. Read Robert Zapesochny's Reports — More Here.
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