Every Armenian American, it seems, represents a profound legacy. For Alice Kelikian, a historian at Brandeis University, it’s in the story of the three aunts she never knew and the memory of her father, Dr. Hampar Kelikian, a survivor of the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923.
Dr. Kelikian went on to become a renowned Chicago surgeon, who saved a young wounded World War II veteran’s right arm – and encouraged him to go into politics. That man is former GOP Senate leader and 1996 presidential nominee Bob Dole.
April 24 marks the 106th anniversary of the start of the Ottoman Turkish mass killing of Armenians that claimed 1.5 million lives. The genocide is widely recognized the world over, but rarely by U.S. presidents, fearing repercussions from NATO ally Turkey. President Ronald Reagan did so in 1981, though glancingly.
President Joe Biden is expected Saturday to fully recognize the Armenian genocide. It’s no coincidence that he’s close to former Senator Dole, now ailing and in his 90s, and whom President Biden recently visited. For decades, Mr. Dole has been devoted to the cause of Armenian genocide recognition.
But it also matters to Mr. Biden. “If we do not fully acknowledge, commemorate, and teach our children about genocide, the words ‘never again’ lose their meaning,” he wrote a year ago as a presidential candidate.
For Dr. Kelikian’s daughter Alice, April 24 – Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day – is as meaningful as ever. “Bob Dole broke down at my father’s wake” in 1983, she tells the Monitor. “I am moved by the humanity in all of this.”