Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock From left: Elizabeth and Bob Dole in May 2019
Earlier this week, the Today show's Savannah Guthrie facilitated a birthday toast for her friends Bob and Elizabeth, who turned 97 and 84 this month, respectively. For the celebration, several figures from both sides of the political aisle popped up to send well wishes, including former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
"Happy birthday to both Elizabeth and Bob Dole: two great Americans, two wonderful people and two friends," said Bush, 74, in a video message, as Clinton, 73, said: "Bob and Elizabeth, happy birthday. I'm glad to add my voice to the many thousands of people who wish you that."
"And always thank you for setting examples of working in good faith to find common ground," added Clinton, who beat Republican candidate Bob in the 1996 presidential election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also shared kind words with the Doles, who are both former senators. "Mr. Leader you are a person of great integrity and deep dignity and extraordinary courage," said Pelosi, 80. "Elizabeth, you are an angel, and everybody knows that too. You are both American heroes."
There was one surprise guest during the online festivities — Barbra Streisand.
"I must be the most unlikely guest at your virtual birthday, Bob," said Streisand, 78. "And you were so sweet to tell me that my music helped you during your recent recovery."
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"Oh my word, I am just absolutely overwhelmed," Elizabeth told Guthrie. "To hear from so many precious friends. And such beautiful messages. ... We draw energy from the warmth of your friendship, from your support and love. And let's just keep giving that to each other during these incredibly challenging times."
In February 2019, the Doles made an appearance on the Today show to reflect on their more-than-40-year relationship. Bob, who was a Kansas senator from 1969 to 1996, and Elizabeth, who served as a North Carolina Senator from 2003 to 2009, met in 1972 during a meeting at his office.
“All of a sudden, the side door opens and in comes Bob Dole. And I look up and I think, ‘Gee, he’s a good-looking guy,’ ” recalled Elizabeth of seeing her eventual husband for the first time. “And he says he wrote my name on the back of his blotter.”
Bob didn’t ask her out until the third time they talked on the phone — which Elizabeth said only made her like him more. “I really liked that a lot, because I realized he’s not some guy chasing women around Capitol Hill,” she said.
Added Bob: “I never did that — couldn’t catch ’em anyway!”
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"We were all doing everything we could do to make it better," Cuomo tells PEOPLE
As Elizabeth told PEOPLE in 1976 of their 18-month courtship, “I was having too good a time.” The couple even lived near one another in Watergate apartments for a time before she moved in with him and rented out her own place.
The couple wed in 1975 and “believe it or not,” they have never had a “serious argument” in all their years of marriage, Elizabeth told Today last year.
“I love his compassionate heart and the fact that he loved to feel that each day he could make a difference for at least one person in need,” she said. “And I loved the fact that he had such a great sense of humor.”