Updated: Dec 28, 2021
Washington, D.C. - Senator Bob Dole, an influential leader of the Republican Party who represented the State of Kansas in the House and the Senate for three decades, and a champion of human rights who paved the way for U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, passed away on Sunday, December 5, 2021, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) reported. "Senator Dole played an enormous role in the lives of all Armenians, and we are grateful for his continuous efforts throughout his political career to help Armenians around the world. We appreciate his partnership with the Armenian Assembly of America throughout the decades, from his support of our internship program, to our collaborative efforts as we sought U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide," said Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian. A decorated World War II veteran, Senator Dole was deeply moved by the friendship he forged with his orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Hampar Kelikian, an Armenian Genocide survivor, helped in Senator Dole's recovery from the severe injuries he sustained during the war, and declined any payment for his medical services. Senator Dole rose to national prominence, serving in the U.S. House of Representatives for four terms (1961-1969), followed by almost 30 years in the U.S. Senate (1969-1996), where he was first elected Senate Majority Leader in 1985 and again in 1995. During his productive tenure, he introduced key legislation for U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. Referred to as a member of "The Greatest Generation," for whom the principles of liberty, justice, and peace took precedence, Senator Dole carried these ideals with him when he signed on "without hesitation," according to author Michael Bobelian, author of Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice, to a new Armenian Genocide resolution, backed by the Assembly and Dr. Kelikian's daughter, Dr. Alice Kelikian, during the 101st Congress in 1989. That September he introduced S.J.Res.212 in the Senate, a joint resolution that designated April 24, 1990 as a "National Day of Remembrance of the 75th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923." The resolution garnered strong bipartisan support, including from then Senator Joe Biden (D-DE). Senator Dole fought for the resolution on the Senate floor during the February 1990 debate, stating: "For the one million Armenians in this country, the wounds have been open for almost 75 years, and the hurt is not going to be able to heal because the world has not faced up to the truth of the suffering of the Armenian people in this period of 1915-1923...because the world stood by and did nothing." While passage of the resolution was blocked by a filibuster, Armenian Americans admired and respected Senator Dole for his leadership and courage, and for bringing national attention to this important and universal human rights issue. "Although the Dole resolution did not pass, the floor debate effectively ended discussion among serious Senate and House members about the reality of the Armenian Genocide and U.S. history," said Assembly Co-Chairs Barsamian and Krikorian. As Armenian Genocide affirmation hit a standstill, Senator Dole continued his friendly and supportive relationship with Armenian Americans. He and his wife Elizabeth visited earthquake-ravaged Armenia in August 1989, accompanied by Armenian Assembly of America Board of Trustees Chairman Hirair Hovnanian, where they met with government officials and survivors. Senator Dole's trip to Armenia led to him spearheading legislation that resulted in a $10 million government appropriation to assist U.S. organizations that pursued relief projects in Armenia over the next three years. By the end of September 1990, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded $5.7 million to a consortium comprised of the Armenian Assembly of America Relief Fund, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the American Red Cross, and Project HOPE. The Assembly Relief Fund’s portion of the funding, totaling nearly $2 million, was allocated to support the housing manufacturing project in Armenia. In 1990, Senator Dole was also instrumental in winning congressional approval for the U.S. government to spend at least $5 million to help private voluntary organizations resettle thousands of Armenians displaced in Azerbaijan as a result of pogroms committed against them in Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku. On September 29, 1990, the Armenian Assembly of America hosted a tribute banquet in New York City during which it honored Senator Dole with its Global Humanitarian award. This tribute banquet was a unique opportunity for the Armenian American community to salute and thank Senator Dole for his extraordinary achievements as a global humanitarian. All net proceeds from the banquet were divided between the Armenian Assembly of America Relief Fund and the Dole Foundation, a national foundation dedicated to providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. After decades of fighting for U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, Senator Dole expressed his satisfaction in response to President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.'s clear and unequivocal recognition of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 2021. He stated: "I'm very pleased that he [President Biden] has officially recognized the Armenian genocide. This is a proud and historically significant moment for the United States, for Armenia, and for Armenians around the globe. It's been a long time coming." The Assembly is saddened by the loss of a political giant and a great friend of the Armenian people, who elevated truth, justice, and human rights, and expresses its deepest condolences to Elizabeth Dole, a treasured friend who was President of the American Red Cross, and to their family. Senator Dole, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1997 by then President Bill Clinton, leaves behind a rich legacy not only as a veteran and public servant who gave to his country, but as a man of valor and honor.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.