‘Among the greatest of the Greatest Generation’: President Biden pays tribute to Bob Dole

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President Joe Biden offered a heartfelt tribute Sunday to his former Senate colleague Bob Dole after the Kansas Republican icon passed away at 98.

Biden had visited Dole at his residence in Washington in February after the former Senate majority leader’s stage IV cancer diagnosis was announced. Biden, whose son Beau Biden also died of cancer, reflected on the visit and their long friendship in a statement.

“A month after being sworn in as president, one of the first conversations I had with anyone outside the White House was with our dear friends, Bob and Elizabeth Dole, at their home in Washington,” Biden said. “Bob had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, and I was there to offer the same support, love, and encouragement that they showed me and Jill when our son Beau battled cancer, and that the Doles have shown us over the half century we’ve been friends.”

Biden and first lady Jill Biden spoke Sunday with Elizabeth Dole, the Kansas senator’s widow who also served a term in chamber alongside Biden, to express their their condolences after her husband’s passing.

Bob Dole was four years into his first Senate term when Biden first joined the chamber in 1973. The two developed a cross-aisle friendship as Dole, a Republican, represented Kansas and Biden, a Democrat, represented Delaware.

“In the Senate, though we often disagreed, he never hesitated to work with me or other Democrats when it mattered most. He and Ted Kennedy came together to turn Bob’s lifelong cause into the Americans with Disabilities Act — granting tens of millions of Americans lives of greater dignity. On the Social Security Commission, he led a bipartisan effort with Pat Moynihan to ensure that every American could grow old with their basic dignity intact,” Biden recalled.

“When he managed the bill to create a federal holiday in the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. — a bill that many in his own caucus opposed — I will never forget what he said to our colleagues: ‘No first-class democracy can treat people like second-class citizens.’”

Dole forcefully rejected the conspiracy theories about the 2020 election promoted by fellow Republican Donald Trump when the former president and allies sought to undermine Biden’s victory in the presidential race last year.

“The election is over and Biden will be president on January 20,” Dole told The Kansas City Star in December 2020.

“He’s a friend of mine and he was a good chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate,” Dole said of Biden at the time. “He did a good job. Proud to be a liberal — hopefully not too liberal — but he knows how the government works and the Congress works and all this will be a benefit to Joe.”

Roughly a year later, Biden offered high praise for Dole’s political legacy, his friendship and importance in U.S. history.

“Bob was an American statesman like few in our history. A war hero and among the greatest of the Greatest Generation. And to me, he was also a friend whom I could look to for trusted guidance, or a humorous line at just the right moment to settle frayed nerves. I will miss my friend. But I am grateful for the times we shared, and for the friendship Jill and I and our family have built with Liddy and the entire Dole family,” Biden said.

“Bob was a man to be admired by Americans. He had an unerring sense of integrity and honor. May God bless him, and may our nation draw upon his legacy of decency, dignity, good humor, and patriotism for all time.”

Biden has ordered flags at the White House, military posts, U.S. embassies and other government buildings to fly at half-staff through Dec. 9 in honor of Dole.

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