On January 4, 1999, Elizabeth Dole resigned from her position as head of the world's largest humanitarian relief agency, immediately signaling her sights were focused on something even more challenging in Washington.
"The Red Cross is now as solid as rock and I believe there may be another way for me to serve our country," she told a room full of tearful employees and volunteers as she stepped down. "The Red Cross has been a glorious mission field."
She became president of the American Red Cross in 1991. The organization's first female president since founder Clara Barton, Dole oversaw a budget of $2.1 billion, 32,000 employees, and 1.4 million volunteers. Hired amid a scandal over possible HIV-contamination of the blood supply, she promptly revamped the agency's blood bank procedures. She also solved its budget crisis, raising $3.6 billion for the agency along the way. And stressing the importance of volunteerism, she passed up the first year of her $200,000 salary.
After only months at the helm, as she was flying home from Kuwait, Dole realized, "I had found a job that filled me with a sense of mission like I had never known."
"I've stood by your side in Florida as we braced for Hurricane Andrew," she reminded her Red Cross employees in her resignation speech. "I've cradled a gaunt Rwandan baby in my arms. And I've sat with our men and women in uniform, far from home and loved ones, as they keep the peace in Bosnia.1