Remembering Bob Dole and One Soldier’s Legacy
I could not have known at the time as I was too young, but in August 0f 1990, a Senator from Kansas named Bob Dole visited Kosova for the first time, staying only miles away from my suburban home in Prishtina. That historic day, like many others in his extraordinary life, Senator Dole brought hope for the oppressed Albanian population of Kosova, like me, with a message, “freedom is coming, democracy is coming, human rights are coming”.
That was the turning point for Kosova’s long road toward freedom, and since then, Bob Dole never stopped fighting for the rights of its people, articulating to the world — and two U.S. presidents — the urgency of the need to take action on the ongoing struggle.
“We have a moral obligation to take a strong stand in defense of the individual rights of Albanians,” Dole said on the Senate floor upon his return from Kosova. One must wonder if the tragedies of the Balkans could have been avoided had anyone been seriously listening to Senator Dole.
In 1992, Senator Dole wrote an ultimatum to the then Serbian tyrant: “stop the genocide or be prepared for NATO air strikes”, and finished with the words, “this letter may not convince you, but perhaps history will.” And it did. Seven years later, history finally caught up with Serbia and its tyrant.
Only days following the NATO bombing in 1999, Dole returned to Kosova, greeted in the square of Prishtina by the cheering crowds, chanting “Doley! Doley!” and “U-S-A!”.
Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a remarkable way. Bob Dole did. And because of Dole, America is better, and the world is much better.
Three days before the 1997 inauguration, President Bill Clinton awarded Dole the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Ahead of placing the medal around Dole’s neck, President Clinton said of his former Republican presidential rival: “Son of the soil, citizen, soldier and legislator, Bob Dole understands the American people, their struggles, their triumphs and their dreams.” Dole, fighting back tears as the president placed the medal around his neck, said, “Mr. President, I will cherish it as long as I live.”
Born in his parents’ home in Russell, Kansas on July 22, 1923, Bob Dole, was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, the Congressional Gold Medal, and a record of achievements simply too numerous to name.
Many people are described as larger than life, but few deserve it. Senator Dole, whose life from battlefields to the halls of Congress, serving his country with courage and honor, bequests a legacy of justice, freedom and human rights champion for Americans and people around the world.
In a statement yesterday, the Dole family said “America has lost one of its heroes; our family has lost its rock.” In Bob Dole, Kosova has lost both, one of its heroes and one of its rocks. But his memory is very much alive in the hearts he touched from Kansas to Kosova. His example inspires all of us today and his legacy will be remembered for generations to come.