Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to Elizabeth Dole, 18 others

Senator Dole was recognized for her lifetime of public service

President Joe Biden awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Sen. Elizabeth Dole at the White House on Friday. Alex Brandon / AP Photo
President Joe Biden awards the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to former Sen. Elizabeth Dole during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Joe Biden on Friday bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on 19 people, including civil rights icons such as the late Medgar Evers, actor Michelle Yeoh, prominent political leaders such as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. James Clyburn, and actor Michelle Yeoh.

Also honored was North Carolina’s own Elizabeth Dole, recognized for her lifetime of public service across a variety of arenas.

In a release from the White House announcing the recognition, Senator Dole’s work as a U.S. Senator, as Secretary of Transportation under President Reagan and Secretary of Labor under President George H. W. Bush, and as president of the American Red Cross was mentioned.

Also cited was her work with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation supporting military caregivers — the spouses, friends and family members who support our nations wounded veterans — through advocacy and recognition of that essential service.

Elizabeth Dole, now 87, was born in Salisbury, North Carolina, in Rowan County. She graduated from Duke University in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in political science before attending grad school at Oxford and Harvard. She received a Master’s in Education and a law degree from Harvard.

After decades of political service, including a brief run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 (four years after her husband, Bob Dole, lost to Bill Clinton in the 1996 presidential race), she returned to North Carolina to run for Senate in 2002, serving a single six-year term.

She lost to Senator Kay Hagan in 2008, making Senator Dole the last Republican to lose a Senate race in North Carolina.

In 2012, she founded the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to help the caregivers of wounded warriors. Her husband, Senator Bob Dole, was partially paralyzed from severe injuries sustained during combat in World War II.

Senator Dole looked delighted to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, last week at the White House.

In a curious bit of trivia, Senator Dole joins Secretary Elaine Chao — Senator Mitch McConnell’s wife — as the only two women who have served as both Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Labor who have also been married to a Senate Majority Leader.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.