The death of Bob Dole, at age 98, on December 5, was a loss for American politics and a loss for those championing recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
He was a larger-than-life presence on the American political scene, “one of the most durable political figures in the last decades of the last century,” as characterized by Katharine Q. Seelye of the New York Times. He was nominated for vice president in 1976 and for president in 1996, but failed to succeed in either quest. However, his impact was mostly felt in the US Senate where he served for a quarter century and left his personal imprint through strategic leadership and the 12,000 votes he cast on legislation, much of which had historic consequences.
His personal life and his political career are the epitome of resilience. He was a skillful dealmaker on the Senate floor and, more often than not, was a champion of bipartisanship.
President Joe Biden, an erstwhile opponent on the Senate floor, had this to say upon hearing of his passing: “An American statesman like few in our history. A war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation.”
Growing up in the Dust Bowl of Kansas in a poor family, he empathized with the downtrodden and that empathy became the trademark of his politics when he steered into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
It seems, also, that empathy was one of the most significant factors in his espousal of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. He was sensitized to this issue by a survivor of that genocide, Dr. Hampar Kelikian, who touched his life miraculously and healed his wounds.