Full Text Political Transcripts January 12, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Presentation of the Medal of Freedom to Vice President Joe Biden

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and the Vice President in Presentation of the Medal of Freedom to Vice President Joe Biden

Source: WH, 1-12-17

State Dining Room

3:50 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey!  All right, that’s enough.  Don’t want to embarrass the guy.  (Laughter.)

Welcome to the White House, everybody.  As I have already delivered my farewell address, I will try to be relatively brief.  But I just wanted to get some folks together to pay tribute to somebody who has not only been by my side for the duration of this amazing journey, but somebody who has devoted his entire professional life to service to this country, the best Vice President America has ever had, Mr. Joe Biden.  (Applause.)

This also gives the Internet one last chance to talk about our bromance.  (Laughter.)  This has been quite a ride.  It was eight and a half years ago that I chose Joe to be my Vice President.  There has not been a single moment since that time that I’ve doubted the wisdom of that decision.  He was the best possible choice, not just for me, but for the American people.  This is an extraordinary man with an extraordinary career in public service.  This is somebody the people of Delaware sent to the Senate as quickly as they possibly could.  (Laughter.)

Elected at age 29, for more than a dozen years apiece he served as chair or ranking member of the Judiciary and Foreign Relation Committees.  Domestically, he championed landmark legislation to make our communities safer, to protect our women from violence.  Internationally, his wisdom and capacity to build relationships that shaped our nation’s response to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, to counterterrorism, Iraq, Afghanistan.

And for the past eight years, he could not have been a more devoted or effective partner in the progress that we’ve made.  He fought to make college more affordable and revitalize American manufacturing as the head of our Middle Class Task Force.  He suited up for our Cancer Moonshot, giving hope to millions of Americans touched by this disease.

He led our efforts to combat gun violence, and he rooted out any possible misappropriations that might have occurred.  And as a consequence, the Recovery Act worked as well as just about any largescale stimulus project has ever worked in this country.  He visited college after college — and made friends with Lady Gaga (laughter) — for our “It’s On Us” campaign against campus sexual assault.  And when the Pope visited, Joe was even kind enough to let me talk to His Holiness, as well.  (Laughter.)

Behind the scenes, Joe’s candid, honest counsel has made me a better President and a better Commander-in-Chief.  From the Situation Room to our weekly lunches, to our huddles after everybody else has cleared out of the room, he’s been unafraid to give it to me straight, even if we disagree — in fact, especially if we disagree.

And all of this makes him, I believe, the finest Vice President we have ever seen.  And I also think he has been a lion of American history.  The best part is he’s nowhere close to finished.  In the years ahead, as a citizen, he will continue to build on that legacy, internationally and domestically.  He’s got a voice of vision and reason and optimism, and a love for people.  And we’re going to need that spirit and that vision as we continue to try to make our world safer and to make sure that everybody has got a fair shot in this country.

So, all told, that’s a pretty remarkable legacy.  An amazing career in public service.  It is, as Joe once said, a big deal. (Laughter and applause.)  It is.

But we all know that, on its own, his work — this list of accomplishments, the amazing résumé — does not capture the full measure of Joe Biden.  I have not mentioned Amtrak yet or aviators.  (Laughter.)  Literally.  (Laughter.)

Folks don’t just feel like they know Joe the politician, they feel like they know the person — what makes him laugh, what he believes, what he cares about, and where he came from.  Pretty much every time he speaks, he treats us to some wisdom from the nuns who taught him in grade school — (laughter) — or from an old Senate colleague.

But, of course, more frequently cited — Catherine and Joseph, Sr., his mom and dad:  “No one’s better than you, but you’re better than nobody.” (Laughter.)  “Bravery resides in every heart, and yours is fierce and clear.”  “And when you get knocked down, Joey, get up — get up.”  (Laughter.)  “Get up.”  (Applause.)

That’s where he got those broad shoulders.  That’s where he got that Biden heart.  And through his life, through trial after trial, he has never once forgotten the values and the moral fiber that made him who he is.  That’s what steels his faith in God, and in America, and in his friends, and in all of us.

When Joe talks to autoworkers whose livelihoods he helped save, we hear the son of a man who once knew the pain of having to tell his kids that he had lost his job.

When Joe talks about hope and opportunity for our children, we hear the father who rode the rails home every night so that he could be there to tuck his kids into bed.

When Joe sticks up for the little guy, we hear the young boy who used to stand in front of the mirror, reciting Yeats or Emerson, studying the muscles in his face, determined to vanquish a debilitating stutter.

And when Joe talks to Gold Star families who have lost a hero, we hear a kindred spirit; another father of an American veteran; somebody whose faith has been tested, and who has been forced to wander through the darkness himself, and who knows who to lean on to find the light.

So that’s Joe Biden — a resilient, and loyal, and humble servant, and a patriot.  But most of all, a family man.  Starts with Jill, “Captain of the Vice Squad.”  (Laughter.)  Only the Second Lady in our history to keep her regular day job.  (Applause.)  Jill says, teaching isn’t what she does, it’s who she is.  A few days after Joe and I were inaugurated in 2009, she was back in the classroom teaching.  That’s why when our administration worked to strengthen community colleges, we looked to Jill to lead the way.

She’s also traveled the world to boost education and empowerment for women.  And as a Blue Star mom, her work with Michelle to honor our military families will go down in history as one of the most lasting and powerful efforts of this administration.

Of course, like Joe, Jill’s work is only part of the story.  She just seems to walk this Earth so lightly, spreads her joy so freely.  And she reminds us that although we’re in a serious business, we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously.  She’s quick with a laugh or a practical joke, disguising herself as a server at a party she once hosted — (laughter) –to liven the mood.  She once hid in the overhead compartment of Air Force 2 to scare the senior staff.  (Laughter.)  Because why not?  She seems to have a sixth sense of when to send a note of encouragement to a friend or a staffer, a simple thank you or a box of macaroons.
She is one of the best, most genuine people that I’ve met not just in politics, but in my entire life.  She is grounded, and caring, and generous, and funny, and that’s why Joe is proud to introduce himself as “Jill Biden’s husband.”  (Laughter.)

And to see them together is to see what real love looks like — through thick and thin, good times and bad.  It’s an all-American love story.  Jill once surprised Joe by painting hearts on his office windows for Valentine’s Day.

And then there are these Biden kids and grandkids.  They’re everywhere.  (Laughter.)  They’re all good-looking.  (Laughter.)  Hunter and Ashley, who lived out that family creed of raising good families and looking out for the least of our brothers and sisters.  Beau, who is watching over us with those broad shoulders and mighty heart himself — a man who left a beautiful legacy and inspired an entire nation.  Naomi, and Finn, and Maisy, and Natalie, and little Hunter — grandchildren who are the light of Joe’s eyes, and gives him an excuse to bust out the squirt gun around the pool.  (Laughter.)  This is the kind of family that built this country.

That’s why my family is so proud to call ourselves honorary Bidens.  (Laughter.)  As Yeats put it — because I had to quote an Irish poet, and Seamus Heaney was taken — (laughter) — “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”

Away from the camera, Jill and Michelle have each other’s backs just as much as when they’re out championing our troops.  Our girls are close, best friends at school, inviting each other for vacations and sleepovers.  Even though our terms are nearly over, one of the greatest gifts of these past eight years is that we’re forever bonded as a family.

But, of course, I know that the Obamas are not the only ones who feel like they’re part of the Biden clan because Joe’s heart has radiated around this room.  You see it in the enduring friendships he’s forged with folks of every stripe and background up on Capitol Hill.  You see it in the way that his eyes light up when he finds somebody in a rope line from Scranton.  (Laughter.)  Or just the tiniest towns in Delaware.  (Laughter.)  You see it in the incredible loyalty of his staff, the team who knows that family always comes before work because Joe tells them so every day, the team that reflects their boss’s humble service.  Here in this building where there have been no turf wars between our staffs because everybody here has understood that we were all on the same mission and shared the same values, there has just been cooperation and camaraderie.  And that is rare.  It’s a testament to Joe and the tone that he’s set.

And finally, you see Joe’s heart in the way he consoles families, dealing with cancer, backstage after an event; when he meets kids fighting through a stutter of their own, he gives them his private phone number and keeps in touch with them long after.  To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self-regard, and to live life fully.

As one of his long-time colleagues in the Senate, who happened to be a Republican, once said, “If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, you got a problem.  He’s as good a man as God ever created.”

So, Joe, for your faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country, and for your lifetime of service that will endure through the generations, I’d like to ask the military aide to join us on stage.

For the final time as President, I am pleased to award our nation’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.   (Applause.)

And for the first and only time in my presidency, I will bestow this medal with an additional level of veneration, an honor my three most recent successors reserved for only three others:  Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, and General Colin Powell.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction to my brother, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.

Will the aide please read the citation.

MILITARY AIDE:  Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.  In a career of public service spanning nearly half a century, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., has left his mark on almost every part of our nation, fighting for a stronger middle class, a fairer judicial system and a smarter foreign policy; providing unyielding support for our troops; combatting crime and violence against women; leading our quest to cure cancer; and safeguarding the landmark American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from corruption.

With his charm, candor, unabashed optimism, and deep and abiding patriotism, Joe Biden has garnered the respect and esteem of colleagues of both parties, and the friendship of people across the nation and around the world.  While summoning the strength, faith and grace to overcome great personal tragedy, this son of Scranton, Claymont, and Wilmington has become one of the most consequential Vice Presidents in American history, an accolade that nonetheless rests firmly behind his legacy as husband, father, and grandfather.

A grateful nation thanks Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. for his lifetime of service on behalf of the United States of America.

(The Medal of Freedom is presented.)  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President.  (Applause.)  Please, please, thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please.  Thank you.

Ricchetti, you’re fired.  (Laughter.)  For the press, Ricchetti is my chief of staff.  (Laughter.)

I had no inkling.  I thought we were coming over, Michelle, to — for you, Jill, and Barack and I and a couple of senior staff to toast one another and say what an incredible journey it’s been.

Mr. President, you got right the part about my leaning on Jill.  But I’ve also leaned on you and a lot of people in this room.  I look around the room, and I see great friends like Ted Kaufman, who has been — has so much wisdom.  Guys like Mel Monzack.  I look around here and I’m startled.  I keep seeing people I don’t expect.  Madam President, how are you?  Mr. President, look at my new boss over there.  (Laughter.)

But you know, I get a lot of credit I don’t deserve, to state the obvious and — because I’ve always had somebody to lean on.  From back that time in 1972, when the accident happened, I leaned on — and I mean this in literal sense; Chris knows this — Dodd knows this, and Mel knows this, and Ted knows this — I leaned on my sons Beau and Hunter.  And I continue to lean on Hunter who continues to in a bizarre kind of way raise me.  I mean I’ve leaned on them.

And, Mr. President, you observed early on that when either one of my boys would walk in the room, they’d walk up and say, Dad, what can I get you?  Dad, what do you need?

And then Jill came along, and she saved our lives.  She — no man deserves one great love, let alone two.  And — but everybody knows here, I am Jill’s husband.  Everybody knows that I love her more than she loves me.  (Laughter.)  With good reason.  (Laughter.)  And she gave me the most precious gift, the love of my life, the life of my love, my daughter, Ashley.

And I continue to lean on the family.  Mr. President, you kidded me once.  You heard that the preparation for the two debates — vice presidential debates that I had — I only had two that Beau and Hunt would be the last people in the room.  And Beau would say, look at me, Dad.  Look at me.  Remember, remember home base.  Remember.

And the Secret Service can tell you, Mr. President, that Beau and Hunt and Ashley continue to have to corral me.  We were at one of the national parks, and I was climbing up on top of a bridge to jump off the bridge with a bunch of young kids.  And I hear my sons yelling, Dad, get down.  Now!  (Laughter.)  And I just started laughing so hard I couldn’t stop.  And I said, I was just going to do a flip — a full gainer off here.

He said, Dad, the Secret Service doesn’t want you up there.  Dad.  Look at me, Dad.  (Laughter.)

So we’ve never figured out who the father is in this family.  (Laughter.)

And, Mr. President, you know that with good reason there is no power in the vice presidency.  Matter of fact I just did for Nancy Pelosi’s daughter a reading of the Constitution.  You probably did one for her.  And they had me read the provisions relating to the vice presidency in the Constitution.  And there is no inherent power, nor should there be.

But, Mr. President, you have more than kept your commitment to me by saying that you wanted me to help govern.  The President’s line often — other people don’t hear it that often, but when someone would say, can you get Joe to do such and such.  He says, I don’t do his schedule.  He doesn’t do mine.

Every single thing you’ve asked me to do, Mr. President, you have trusted me to do.  And that is — that’s a remarkable thing.  I don’t think according to — I see the President of Georgetown here, as well.  I don’t think according to the presidential, vice presidential scholars that kind of relationship has existed. I mean, for real.  It’s all you, Mr. President.  It’s all you.

The reason why when you send me around the world, nothing gets — as my mom would say, gets missed between the cup and the lip, it’s because they know when I speak, I speak for you.

And it’s been easy, Mr. President, because we not only have the same political philosophy and ideology, I tell everybody — and I’ve told them from the beginning.  And I’m not saying this to reciprocate.  I’ve never known a President and few people I’ve ever met my whole life — I can count on less than one hand — who have had the integrity and the decency and the sense of other people’s needs like you do.

I know you were upset when I told the story about when Hunt and I were worried that Beau would have to — that he would, as a matter of honor, decide he had to step down as attorney general while he was fighting his battle because he had aphasia.  He was losing his ability to speak, and he didn’t want to ever be in a position where to him everything was about duty and honor.

And I said, and he may resign.  I don’t know I just have the feeling he may.  And Hunt and I had talked about this.  And I said, he doesn’t have any other income, but we’re all right because Hunt’s there, and I can sell the house.

We were having a private lunch like we do once a week.  And this man got up, came over, grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye, and said, don’t you sell that house.  You love that house.

I said, it’s no big deal, Mr. President.  He said, I’ll give you the money.  We’ll give you the money.  Promise me, promise me you won’t sell that house.

I remember when Ashley, Mr. President, we were in the Oval, and Ashley was in an elevator, and the elevator plummeted to the — she was with a group of people — I forget which building in Philadelphia, and it plummeted to the ground.  And immediately the Service was worried that she may have been badly hurt.  And I got up to take the call, and you didn’t let up until you made sure your service followed through and made sure everything was all right.

But you know, Mr. President, we kid about both about marrying up.  We both did, that kind of thing.  But the truth of the matter is — I said this to Michelle last night.  Michelle is the finest First Lady in my view that has ever served in the office.  There’s been other great First Ladies, but I really genuinely mean it.  (Applause.)

When I got to meet Michelle’s brother, and he told me about how you guys were raised, and I got to know and love your mom, if your mom — were your mom 15 years older, she could have been my mom.  Literally, the way you were raised, the way we were raised, there wasn’t any difference.  And I knew that this decision to join you, which was the greatest honor of my life, was the right decision on the night we had to go and accept the nomination, the formal — we’d be nominated at the convention.  And Finnegan, who is now 18 years old, was then 10 years old.  And she came to me, and she said, Pop, is it okay if the room that we’re in — Finnegan, Maisy, and Naomi — that we have the beds taken out.  And I said, why?  She said, maybe the Obama girls and your brothers’ children, maybe they would come down, all sleep together in sleeping bags.  (Laughter.)  And I give you my word as a Biden, I knew when I left to go to the convention, open that door, and saw them cuddled together, I knew this was the right decision.  I knew it was the right decision.  I really did.  Because, Mr. President, the same values set — the same values set.

Folks, you know, I joke with my staff that I don’t know why they pay them anything, because they get to advise me.  (Laughter.)  Let me explain what I mean by that.  As the President of the University of Delaware, where my heart resides, and my home campus of Delaware, as he can tell you, it’s — I get to give you advice.  I get to be the last guy in the room and give you advice on the most difficult decisions anyone has to make in the whole world.  But I get to walk out, and you make it all by yourself.  All by yourself.

Harry Truman was right about the buck stopping at the desk.  And I’ve never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never once doubted, on these life and death decisions, I never once doubted that your judgement was flawed — not once.  Not once.

And we’ve disagreed, and we’ve argued, and we’ve raised our voices, one of which we made a deal we’d be completely open like brothers with one another.  But, Mr. President, I watched you under intense fire.  I will venture to say that no President in history has had as many novel crises land on his desk in all of history.  The Civil War was worse, the World War Two was worse, but, Mr. President, almost every one of the crises you faced was a case of first instance — a case of first instance.  And I watched that prodigious mind and that heart as big as your head — I’ve watched you.  I’ve watched how you’ve acted.

When you see a woman or man under intense pressure, you get a measure — and you know that, Michelle, and your daughters know it, as well.  This is a remarkable man.  And I just hope that the asterisk in history that is attached to my name when they talk about this presidency is that I can say I was part of the journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things for this country.  (Applause.)

You know, I can’t let a comment go by without quoting an Irish poet.  (Laughter.)  Jill and I talk about why you were able to develop the way you developed and with the heart you have.  Michelle and I have talked about it.  I’ve confided in Michelle, I’ve gone to her for advice.  We’ve talked about this man.  You give me insight.  And I think it’s because — Mr. President, you gave me credit for having understanding other people’s misery and suffering.  Mr. President, there is not one single, solitary ounce of entitlement in you, or Michelle, or your beautiful daughters — and you girls are incredible, you really are.  That’s not hyperbole, you really are.  Not one ounce of entitlement.

And Seamus Heaney in one of his poems said — (laughter) — when you can find someone who says it better, use it.  He said, you carried your own burden and very soon, your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared.  You carried your own burdens, and very soon, the creeping symptoms of privilege disappeared.

Mr. President, you have sometimes been like a lone wolf, but you carried yourself in a way that’s pretty remarkable.  The history of the journey — your journey — is something people are going to write about a long time, and I’m not being solicitous when I say this.  And you’re so fortunate, both of you, to have found each other because all that grounding, all that you have, made this guy totally whole.  And it’s pretty amazing.

Mr. President, this honor is not only well beyond what I deserve, but it’s a reflection on the extent and generosity of your spirit.  I don’t deserve this, but I know it came from the President’s heart.  There is a Talmudic saying that says, what comes from the heart, enters the heart.  Mr. President, you have creeped into our heart — you and your whole family, including Mom — and you occupy it.  It’s an amazing thing that happened.  I knew how smart you were.  I knew how honorable you were.  I knew how decent you were from the couple years we worked in the Senate, and I knew what you were capable of.  But I never fully expected that you’d occupy the Bidens’ heart, from Hunter, to Ashley, my sister, all of us.  All of us.

And Mr. President, I’m indebted to you.  I’m indebted to your friendship, I’m indebted to your family, and as I’ll tell you — I’ll end on a humorous note.  We’re having a lunch — lunches, and mostly it’s what’s ever in either one of our minds.  We’ll talk about family an awful lot.  And about six months in, President looks at me, he said, you know, Joe, you know what surprised me?  How we’ve become such good friends.  (Laughter.)  And I said, surprised you?  (Laughter.)

But that is candid Obama, and it’s real, and, Mr. President, you know as long as there’s a breath in me, I’ll be there for you, my whole family will be, and I know, I know it is reciprocal.  And I want to thank you all so very, very, very much.  All of you in here.  (Applause.)

END
4:27 P.M. EST

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Full Text Political Transcripts November 22, 2016: President Barack Obama’s remarks at his final presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Source: WH, 11-22-16

East Room

3:13 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, hello, hello!  Hey!  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Everybody, please have a seat.  We’ve got some work to do here.  (Laughter.)  This is not all fun and games.

Welcome to the White House, everybody.  Today, we celebrate extraordinary Americans who have lifted our spirits, strengthened our union, pushed us toward progress.

I always love doing this event, but this is a particularly impressive class.  We’ve got innovators and artists.  Public servants, rabble rousers, athletes, renowned character actors — like the guy from Space Jam.  (Laughter.)  We pay tribute to those distinguished individuals with our nation’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about each of them.

First, we came close to missing out on Bill and Melinda Gates’ incredible partnership.  Because apparently Bill’s opening line was, “Do you want to go out two weeks from this coming Saturday?”  (Laughter.)  He’s good with computers, but — (laughter.)

Fortunately, Melinda believes in second chances.  And the world is better for it.  For two decades, the Gates Foundation has worked to provide lifesaving medical care to millions — boosting clean water supplies, improving education for our children, rallying aggressive international action on climate change, cutting childhood mortality in half.  The list could go on.

These two have donated more money to charitable causes than anyone, ever.  Many years ago, Melinda’s mom told her an old saying: “To know that even one life has breathed easier because you lived — that is success.”  By this and just about any other measure, few in human history have been more successful than these two impatient optimists.

Frank Gehry has never let popular acclaim reverse his impulse to defy convention.  “I was an outsider from the beginning,” he says, “so for better or worse, I thrived on it.”  The child of poor Jewish immigrants, Frank grew up in Los Angeles, and throughout his life he embraced the spirit of a city defined by an open horizon.  He’s spent his life rethinking shapes and mediums, seemingly the force of gravity itself; the idea of what architecture could be he decided to upend — constantly repurposing every material available, from titanium to a paper towel tube.  He’s inspiring our next generation through his advocacy for arts education in our schools.  From the Guggenheim, to Bilbao, to Chicago’s Millennium Park — our hometown — to his home in Santa Monica, which I understand caused some consternation among his neighbors — (laughter) — Frank’s work teaches us that while buildings may be sturdy and fixed to the ground, like all great art, they can lift our spirits.  They can soar and broaden our horizons.

When an undergraduate from rural Appalachia first set foot on the National Mall many years ago, she was trying to figure out a way to show that “war is not just a victory or a loss,” but “about individual lives.”  She considered how the landscape might shape that message, rather than the other way around.  The project that Maya Lin designed for her college class earned her a B+ — (laughter) — and a permanent place in American history.  (Laughter.)  So all of you B+ students out there.  (Laughter.)

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has changed the way we think about monuments, but also about how we think about sacrifice, and patriotism, and ourselves.  Maya has given us more than just places for remembering — she has created places for us to make new memories.  Her sculptures, chapels, and homes are “physical act[s] of poetry,” each reminding us that the most important element in art or architecture is human emotion.

Three minutes before Armstrong and Aldrin touched down on the moon, Apollo 11’s lunar lander alarms triggered — red and yellow lights across the board.  Our astronauts didn’t have much time.  But thankfully, they had Margaret Hamilton.  A young MIT scientist — and a working mom in the ‘60s — Margaret led the team that created the onboard flight software that allowed the Eagle to land safely.  And keep in mind that, at this time, software engineering wasn’t even a field yet.  There were no textbooks to follow, so, as Margaret says, “There was no choice but to be pioneers.”

Luckily for us, Margaret never stopped pioneering.  And she symbolizes the generation of unsung women who helped send humankind into space.  Her software architecture echoes in countless technologies today.  And her example speaks of the American spirit of discovery that exists in every little girl and little boy who know that somehow, to look beyond the heavens is to look deep within ourselves — and to figure out just what is possible.

If Wright is flight and Edison is light, then Hopper is code.  Born in 1906, Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper followed her mother into mathematics, earned her PhD from Yale, and set out on a long and storied career.  At age 37, and a full 15 pounds below military guidelines, the gutsy and colorful Grace joined the Navy and was sent to work on one of the first computers, Harvard’s “Mark One.”

She saw beyond the boundaries of the possible, and invented the first compiler, which allowed programs to be written in regular language and then translated for computers to understand.  While the women who pioneered software were often overlooked, the most prestigious award for young computer scientists now bear her name.  From cell phones to cyber command, we can thank Grace Hopper for opening programming to millions more people, helping to usher in the information age and profoundly shaping our digital world.

Speaking of really smart people — (laughter) — in the summer of 1950, a young University of Chicago physicist found himself at Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Dick Garwin was there, he said, because Chicago paid its faculty for nine months but his family ate for 12.  So by the next summer, Dick had helped create the hydrogen bomb.  And for the rest of his life, he dedicated himself to reducing the threat of nuclear war.  Dick’s not only an architect of the atomic age.  Ever since he was a Cleveland kid tinkering with his father’s movie projectors, he’s never met a problem he didn’t want to solve.  Reconnaissance satellites, the MRI, GPS technology, the touchscreen all bear his fingerprints.  He even patented a “mussel washer” for shellfish — which I haven’t used.  The other stuff I have.  (Laughter.)  Where is he?

Dick has advised nearly every President since Eisenhower — often rather bluntly.  Enrico Fermi — also a pretty smart guy himself — is said to have called Dick “the only true genius” he ever met.  I do want to see this mussel washer.  (Laughter.)

Along with these scientists, artists, and thinkers, we also honor those who have shaped our culture from the stage and the screen.

In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only succeeded as an actor, she has shaped the whole course history.  Cicely was never the likeliest of Hollywood stars.  The daughter of immigrants from the West Indies, she was raised by a hardworking and religious mother who cleaned houses and forbade her children to attend the movies.  But once she got her education and broke into the business, Cicely made a conscious decision not just to say lines, but to speak out.  “I would not accept roles,” she said, “unless they projected us, particularly women, in a realistic light, [and] dealt with us as human beings.”  And from “Sounder,” to “The Trip to Bountiful,” to “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” Cicely’s convictions and grace have helped for us see the dignity of every single beautiful member of the American family.  And she’s just gorgeous.  (Laughter and applause.)  Yes, she is.

In 1973, a critic wrote of Robert De Niro, “This kid doesn’t just act — he takes off into the vapors.”  And it was true, his characters are iconic.  A Sicilian father turned New York mobster.  A mobster who runs a casino.  A mobster who needs therapy.  (Laughter.)  A father-in-law who is scarier than a mobster.  (Laughter.)  Al Capone — a mobster.  (Laughter.)

Robert combines dramatic precision and, it turns out, comedic timing with his signature eye for detail.  And while the name De Niro is synonymous with “tough guy,” his true gift is the sensitivity that he brings to each role.  This son of New York artists didn’t stop at becoming one of the world’s greatest actors.  He’s also a director, a philanthropist, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival.  Of his tireless preparation — from learning the saxophone to remaking his body — he once said, “I feel I have to earn the right to play a part.”  And the result is honest and authentic art that reveals who we really are.

In 1976, Lorne Michaels implored the Beatles to reunite on his brand new show.  In exchange, he offered them $3,000.  (Laughter.)  And then he told them they could share it equally, or they could give Ringo a smaller cut.  (Laughter.)  Which was early proof that Lorne Michaels has a good sense of humor.

On Saturday Night Live, he’s created a world where a band of no-names become comedy’s biggest stars.  Where our friends the Coneheads, and cheerleaders, and land sharks, and basement deadbeats, and motivational speakers, and an unfrozen caveman lawyer show up, and Tom Hanks is on “Black Jeopardy.”  (Laughter.)  After four decades, even in this fractured media culture that we’ve got, SNL remains appointment viewing; a mainline into not just our counterculture but our culture; still a challenge to the powerful, especially folks like me.

And yet even after all these years, Lorne jokes that his tombstone should bear just a single word that’s often found in the show’s reviews — “uneven.”  (Laughter.)  As a current U.S. Senator would say:  Doggone it, Lorne – that’s why people like you.  He produced a Senator, too, that’s pretty impressive.

Ellen DeGeneres has a way of making you laugh about something rather than at someone.  Except when I danced on her show — she laughed at me.  (Laughter.)  But that’s okay.

It’s easy to forget now, when we’ve come so far, where now marriage is equal under the law — just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago.  Just how important it was not just to the LGBT community, but for all of us to see somebody so full of kindness and light, somebody we liked so much, somebody who could be our neighbor or our colleague or our sister challenge our own assumptions, remind us that we have more in common than we realize, push our country in the direction of justice.

What an incredible burden that was to bear.  To risk your career like that.  People don’t do that very often.  And then to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders.  But it’s like Ellen says:  We all want a tortilla chip that can support the weight of guacamole.  Which really makes no sense to me, but I thought would brighten the mood, because I was getting kind of choked up.  (Laughter.)  And she did pay a price — we don’t remember this.  I hadn’t remembered it.  She did, for a pretty long stretch of time — even in Hollywood.

And yet, today, every day, in every way, Ellen counters what too often divides us with the countless things that bind us together — inspires us to be better, one joke, one dance at a time.

When The Candidate wins his race in the iconic 1972 film of the same name, which continues, by the way, for those of you who haven’t seen it, and many of you are too young — perhaps the best movie about what politics is actually like, ever.  He famously asks his campaign manager the reflective and revealing question:  “What do we do now?”  And like the man he played in that movie, Robert Redford has figured it out and applied his talent and charm to achieve success.

We admire Bob not just for his remarkable acting, but for having figured out what to do next.  He created a platform for independent filmmakers with the Sundance Institute.  He has supported our National Parks and our natural resources as one of the foremost conservationists of our generation.  He’s given his unmatched charisma to unforgettable characters like Roy Hobbs, Nathan Muir, and of course the Sundance Kid, entertaining us for more than half a century.  As an actor, director, producer, and as an advocate, he has not stopped — and apparently drives so fast that he had breakfast in Napa and dinner in Salt Lake.  (Laughter.)  At 80 years young, Robert Redford has no plans to slow down.

According to a recent headline, the movie, Sully was the last straw.  We should never travel with Tom Hanks.  (Laughter.)  I mean, you think about, you got pirates, plane crashes, you get marooned in airport purgatory, volcanoes — something happens with Tom Hanks.  (Laughter.)  And yet somehow, we can’t resist going where he wants to take us.  He’s been an accidental witness to history, a crusty women’s baseball manager, an everyman who fell in love with Meg Ryan three times.  (Laughter.)  Made it seem natural to have a volleyball as your best friend.  From a Philadelphia courtroom, to Normandy’s beachheads, to the dark side of the moon, he has introduced us to America’s unassuming heroes.

Tom says he just saw “ordinary guys who did the right thing at the right time.”  Well, it takes one to know one, and “America’s Dad” has stood up to cancer with his beloved wife, Rita.  He has championed our veterans, supported space exploration, and the truth is, Tom has always saved his best roles for real life.  He is a good man — which is the best title you can have.

So we got innovators, entertainers — three more folks who’ve dedicated themselves to public service.

In the early 1960s, thousands of Cuban children fled to America, seeking an education they’d never get back home.  And one refugee was 15-year-old named Eduardo Padron, whose life changed when he enrolled at Miami Dade College.  That decision led to a bachelor’s degree, then a Master’s degree, then a PhD, and then he had a choice — he could go into corporate America, or he could give back to his alma mater.  And Eduardo made his choice — to create more stories just like his.

As Miami Dade’s President since 1995, Dr. Padron has built a “dream factory” for one of our nation’s most diverse student bodies — 165,000 students in all.  He’s one of the world’s preeminent education leaders — thinking out of the box, supporting students throughout their lives, embodying the belief that we’re only as great as the doors we open.  Eduardo’s example is one we all can follow — a champion for those who strive for the same American Dream that first drew him to our shores.

When Elouise Cobell first filed a lawsuit to recover lands and money for her people, she didn’t set out to be a hero.  She said, “I just wanted…to give justice to people that didn’t have it.”  And her lifelong quest to address the mismanagement of American Indian lands, resources, and trust funds wasn’t about special treatment, but the equal treatment at the heart of the American promise.  She fought for almost 15 years — across three Presidents, seven trials, 10 appearances before a federal appeals court.  All the while, she traveled the country some 40 weeks a year, telling the story of her people.  And in the end, this graduate of a one-room schoolhouse became a MacArthur Genius.  She is a proud daughter of Montana’s Blackfeet Nation.  Reached ultimately a historic victory for all Native Americans.  Through sheer force of will and a belief that the truth will win out, Elouise Cobell overcame the longest odds, reminding us that fighting for what is right is always worth it.

Now, every journalist in the room, every media critic knows the phrase Newt Minow coined: the “vast wasteland.”  But the two words Newt prefers we remember from his speech to the nation’s broadcasters are these: “public interest.”  That’s been the heartbeat of his life’s work — advocating for residents of public housing, advising a governor and Supreme Court justice, cementing presidential debates as our national institution, leading the FCC.

When Newt helped launch the first communications satellites, making nationwide broadcasts possible — and eventually GPS possible and cellphones possible — he predicted it would be more important than the moon landing.  “This will launch ideas into space,” he said, “and ideas last longer than people.”  As far as I know, he’s the only one of today’s honorees who was present on my first date with Michelle.  (Laughter.)  Imagine our surprise when we saw Newt, one of our bosses that summer, at the movie theater — Do the Right Thing.  So he’s been vital to my personal interests.  (Laughter.)

And finally, we honor five of the all-time greats in sports and music.

The game of baseball has a handful of signature sounds.  You hear the crack of the bat.  You got the crowd singing in the seventh inning stretch.  And you’ve got the voice of Vin Scully.  Most fans listen to a game’s broadcast when they can’t be at the ballpark.  Generations of Dodger fans brought their radios into the stands because you didn’t want to miss one of Vin’s stories.

Most play-by-play announcers partner with an analyst in the booth to chat about the action.  Vin worked alone and talked just with us.  Since Jackie Robinson started at second base, Vin taught us the game and introduced us to its players.  He narrated the improbable years, the impossible heroics, turned contests into conversations.  When he heard about this honor, Vin asked with characteristic humility, “Are you sure?  I’m just an old baseball announcer.”  And we had to inform him that to Americans of all ages, you are an old friend.  In fact, I thought about him doing all these citations, which would have been very cool, but I thought we shouldn’t make him sing for his supper like that.  (Laughter.)  “Up next” — (Laughter.)

Here’s how great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was:  1967, he had spent a year dominating college basketball, the NCAA bans the dunk.  They’d didn’t say it was about Kareem, but it was about Kareem.  (Laughter.)  When a sport changes its rules to make it harder just for you, you are really good.  (Laughter and applause.)  And yet despite the rule change, he was still the sport’s most unstoppable force.  It’s a title he’d hold for more than two decades, winning NBA Finals MVPs a staggering 14 years apart.  (Someone sneezes.)  Bless you.  (Laughter.)

And as a surprisingly similar-looking co-pilot, Roger Murdoch, once said in the movie, Airplane — I mean, we’ve got some great actors here — Space Jam, Airplane.  (Laughter.)  He did it all while dragging Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.  But the reason we honor Kareem is more than just a pair of goggles and the skyhook.  He stood up for his Muslim faith when it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t popular.  He’s as comfortable sparring with Bruce Lee as he is advocating on Capitol Hill or writing with extraordinary eloquence about patriotism.  Physically, intellectually, spiritually — Kareem is one-of-a-kind — an American who illuminates both our most basic freedoms and our highest aspirations.

When he was five years old, Michael Jordan nearly cut off his big toe with an axe.  (Laughter.)  Back then, his handles needed a little work.  But think — if things had gone differently, Air Jordan just might never have taken flight.  (Laughter.)  I mean, you don’t want to buy a shoe with one toe missing.  (Laughter.)  We may never have seen him switch hands in mid-air against the Lakers.  Or drop 63 in the Garden.  Or gut it out in the flu game.  Or hit “the shot” three different times — over Georgetown, over Ehlo, over Russell.  We might not have seen him take on Larry Bird in H-O-R-S-E or lift up the sport globally along with the Dream Team.

Yet MJ is still more than those moments; more than just the best player on the two greatest teams of all time — the Dream Team and the Chicago ’96 Bulls.  He’s more than a logo, more than just an Internet meme.  (Laughter.)  More than just a charitable donor or a business owner committed to diversity.  There is a reason you call someone “the Michael Jordan of” — Michael Jordan of neurosurgery, or the Michael Jordan of rabbis, or the Michael Jordan of outrigger canoeing — and they know what you’re talking about.  Because Michael Jordan is the Michael Jordan of greatness.  He is the definition of somebody so good at what they do that everybody recognizes them.  That’s pretty rare.

As a child, Diana Ross loved singing and dancing for family friends — but not for free.  (Laughter.)  She was smart enough to pass the hat.  And later, in Detroit’s Brewster housing projects, she met Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard.  Their neighbor, Smokey Robinson, put them in front of Berry Gordy — and the rest was magic — music history.  The Supremes earned a permanent place in the American soundtrack.

Along with her honey voice, her soulful sensibility, Diana exuded glamour and grace that filled stages that helped to shape the sound of Motown.  On top of becoming one of the most successful recording artists of all time, raised five kids — somehow found time to earn an Oscar nomination for acting.  Today, from the hip-hop that samples her, to the young singers who’ve been inspired by her, to the audiences that still cannot get enough of her — Diana Ross’s influence is inescapable as ever.

He was sprung from a cage out on Highway 9.  A quiet kid from Jersey, just trying to make sense of the temples of dreams and mystery that dotted his hometown — pool halls, bars, girls and cars, altars and assembly lines.  And for decades, Bruce Springsteen has brought us all along on a journey consumed with the bargains between ambition and injustice, and pleasure and pain; the simple glories and scattered heartbreak of everyday life in America.

To create one of his biggest hits, he once said, “I wanted to craft a record that sounded like the last record on Earth…the last one you’d ever need to hear.  One glorious noise…then the apocalypse.”  Every restless kid in America was given a story: “Born to Run.”

He didn’t stop there.  Once he told us about himself, he told us about everybody else.  The steelworker in “Youngstown.”  The Vietnam Vet in “Born in the USA.”  The sick and the marginalized on “The Streets of Philadelphia.”  The firefighter carrying the weight of a reeling but resilient nation on “The Rising.”  The young soldier reckoning with “Devils and Dust” in Iraq.  The communities knocked down by recklessness and greed in the “Wrecking Ball.”  All of us, with all our faults and our failings, every color, and class, and creed, bound together by one defiant, restless train rolling toward “The Land of Hope and Dreams.”  These are all anthems of our America; the reality of who we are, and the reverie of who we want to be.

“The hallmark of a rock and roll band,” Bruce Springsteen once said, is that “the narrative you tell together is bigger than anyone could have told on your own.”  And for decades, alongside the Big Man, Little Steven, a Jersey girl named Patti, and all the men and women of the E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen has been carrying the rest of us on his journey, asking us all “what is the work for us to do in our short time here.”

I am the President.  But he is The Boss.  (Laughter.)  And pushing 70, he’s still laying down four-hour live sets — if you have been at them, he is working.  “Fire-breathing rock ‘n’ roll.”  So I thought twice about giving him a medal named for freedom because we hope he remains, in his words, a “prisoner of rock ‘n’ roll” for years to come.

So, I told you, this is like a really good class.  (Laughter.)

Ladies and gentlemen, I want you all to give it up for the recipients of the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom.  (Applause.)  It is a good group.

All right.  Now we actually got to give them medals.  So please be patient.  We are going to have my military aide read the citations.  Each one of them will come up and receive the medals, and then we’ll wrap up the program.

Okay.  Let’s hit it.

MILITARY AIDE:  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  (Applause.)  An iconic basketball player who revolutionized the sport with his all-around play and signature skyhook, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a 19-time All-Star, a 6-time world champion, and the leading scorer in NBA history.  Adding to his achievements on the court he also left his mark off of it, advocating for civil rights, cancer research, science education, and social justice.  In doing so, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leaves a towering legacy of compassion, faith, and service to others — a legacy based not only on the strength and grace of his athleticism, but on the sharpness of his mind and the size of his heart.  (Applause.)

Turk Cobell, accepting on behalf of his mother, Elouise C. Cobell Yellowbird Woman.  (Applause.)  A member of the Blackfeet Nation, Elouise Cobell spent her life defying the odds and working on behalf of her people.  As a young woman, she was told that she wasn’t capable of understanding accounting.  So she mastered the field — and used her expertise to champion a lawsuit whose historic settlement has helped restore Tribal homelands to her beloved Blackfeet Nation and many other Tribes.  Today, her tenacious and unwavering spirit lives on in the thousands of people and hundreds of Tribes for whom she fought and in all those she taught to believe that it is never too late to right the wrongs of the past and help shape a better future.  (Applause.)

Ellen DeGeneres.  (Applause.)  In a career spanning three decades, Ellen DeGeneres has lifted our spirits and brought joy to our lives as a stand-up comic, actor, and television star.  In every role, she reminds us to be kind to one another and to treat people as each of us wants to be treated.  At a pivotal moment, her courage and candor helped change the hearts and minds of millions of Americans, accelerating our Nation’s constant drive toward equality and acceptance for all.  Again and again, Ellen DeGeneres has shown us that a single individual can make the world a more fun, more open, more loving place — so long as we “just keep swimming.”  (Applause.)

Robert De Niro.  (Applause.)  For over 50 years, Robert De Niro has delivered some of screen’s most memorable performances, cementing his place as one of the most gifted actors of his generation.  From “The Godfather Part II” and “The Deer Hunter” to “Midnight Run” and “Heat,” his work is legendary for its range and depth.  Relentlessly committed to his craft, De Niro embodies his characters, creating rich, nuanced portraits that reflect the heart of the human experience.  Regardless of genre or era, Robert De Niro continues to demonstrate that extraordinary skill that has made him one of America’s most revered and influential artists.  (Applause.)

Richard L. Garwin.  (Applause.)  One of the most renowned scientific and engineering minds of our time, Dr. Richard Garwin has always answered the call to help solve society’s most challenging problems.  He has coupled his pioneering work in defense and intelligence technologies with leadership that underscores the urgency for humanity to control the spread of nuclear arms.  Through his advice to Republican and Democratic administrations dating to President Eisenhower, his contributions in fundamental research, and his inventions that power technologies that drive our modern world, Richard Garwin has contributed not only to this Nation’s security and prosperity, but to the quality of life for people all over the world.  (Applause.)

William H. Gates III and Melinda French Gates.  (Applause.)  Few people have had the profound global impact of Bill and Melinda Gates.  Through their work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they’ve demonstrated how the most capable and fortunate among us have a responsibility to use their talents and resources to tackle the world’s greatest challenges.  From helping women and girls lift themselves and their families out of poverty to empowering young minds across America, they have transformed countless lives with their generosity and innovation.  Bill and Melinda Gates continue to inspire us with their impatient optimism that, together, we can remake the world as it should be.  (Applause.)

Frank Gehry.  (Applause.)  Never limited by conventional materials, styles, or processes, Frank Gehry’s bold and thoughtful structures demonstrate architecture’s power to induce wonder and revitalize communities.  A creative mind from an early age, he began his career by building imaginary homes and cities with scrap material from his grandfather’s hardware store.  Since then, his work continues to strike a balance between experimentation and functionality, resulting in some of the 20th century’s most iconic buildings.  From his pioneering use of technology to the dozens of awe-inspiring sites that bear his signature style to his public service as a citizen artist through his work with Turnaround Arts, Frank Gehry has proven himself an exemplar scholar of American innovation.  (Applause.)

Margaret Heafield Hamilton.  (Applause.)  A pioneer in technology, Margaret Hamilton defined new forms of software engineering and helped launch an industry that would forever change human history.  Her software architecture led to giant leaps for humankind, writing the code that helped America set foot on the moon.  She broke barriers in founding her own software businesses, revolutionizing an industry and inspiring countless women to participate in STEM fields.  Her love of exploration and innovation are the source code of the American spirit, and her genius has inspired generations to reach for the stars.  (Applause.)

Thomas J. Hanks.  (Applause.)  Throughout a distinguished film career, Tom Hanks has revealed the character of America, as well as his own.  Portraying war heroes, an astronaut, a ship captain, a cartoon cowboy, a young man growing up too fast, and dozens of others, he’s allowed us to see ourselves — not only as we are, but as we aspire to be.  On screen and off, Tom Hanks has honored the sacrifices of those who have served our Nation, called on us all to think big and to believe, and inspired a new generation of young people to reach for the sky.  (Laughter and applause.)

Deborah Murray, accepting on behalf of her great aunt, Grace Murray Hopper.  (Applause.)  As a child who loved disassembling alarm clocks, Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper found her calling early.  A Vassar alumna with a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale, Hopper served in the Navy during World War II, becoming one of the first programmers in early computing.  Known today as the “Queen of Code,” Grace Hopper’s work helped make the coding language more practical and accessible.  She invented the first compiler, or translator, a fundamental element of our now digital world.  “Amazing Grace” was committed to making the language of computer programming more universal.  Today, we honor her contributions to computer science and the sense of possibility she inspired in generations of young people.  (Applause.)

Michael J. Jordan.  (Applause and laughter.)  Powered by a drive to compete that earned him every major award in basketball, including six NBA championships, five Most Valuable Player awards, and two gold medals, Michael Jordan has a name that’s become a synonym for excellence.  His wagging tongue and high-flying dunks redefined the game, making him a global superstar whose impact transcended basketball and shaped our Nation’s broader culture.  From the courts in Wilmington, Chapel Hill, and Chicago to the owner’s suite he occupies today, his life and example have inspired millions of Americans to strive to “Be Like Mike.”  (Applause.)

Maya Y. Lin.  (Applause.)  Boldly challenging our understanding of the world, Maya Lin’s designs have brought people of all walks of life together in spirits of remembrance, introspection, and humility.  The manipulation of natural terrain and topography within her works inspires us to bridge our differences and recognize the gravity of our collective existence.  Her pieces have changed the landscape of our country and influenced the dialogue of our society — never more profoundly than with her tribute to the Americans who fell in Vietnam by cutting a wound into the Earth to create a sacred place of healing in our Nation’s capital.  (Applause.)

Lorne Michaels.  (Applause.)  One of the most transformative entertainment figures of our time, Lorne Michaels followed his dreams to New York City, where he created a sketch show that brought satire, wits, and modern comedy to homes around the world.  Under his meticulous command as executive producer, “Saturday Night Live” has entertained audiences across generations, reflecting — and shaping — critical elements of our cultural, political, and national life.  Lorne Michaels’ creative legacy stretches into late-night television, sitcoms, and the big screen, making us laugh, challenging us to think, and raising the bar for those who follow.  As one of his show’s signature characters would say, “Well, isn’t that special?”  (Laughter and applause.)

Newton N. Minow.  (Applause.)  As a soldier, counsel to the Governor of Illinois, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and law clerk to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Newton Minow’s career has been defined by his devotion to others.  Deeply committed to his family, the law, and the American people, his dedication to serving and empowering the public is reflected in his efforts to ensure that broadcast media educates and provides opportunity for all.  Challenging the media to better serve their viewers, his staunch commitment to the power of ideas and information has transformed telecommunications and its influential role in our society.  (Applause.)

Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón.  (Applause.)  As a teenage refugee from Cuba, Eduardo Padrón came to the United States to pursue the American Dream, and he has spent his life making that dream real for others.  As president of the community college he once attended, his thoughtful leadership and commitment to education have transformed Miami Dade College into one of the premier learning institutions in the country, earning him praise around the world.  His personal story and lasting professional influence prove that success need not be determined by our background, but by our dedication to others and our passion for creating America that is as inclusive as it is prosperous.  (Applause.)

Robert Redford.  (Applause.)  Robert Redford has captivated audiences from both sides of the camera through entertaining motion pictures that often explore vital social, political, and historical themes.  His lifelong advocacy on behalf of preserving our environment will prove as an enduring legacy as his award-winning films, as will his pioneering support for independent filmmakers across America.  His art and activism continue to shape our Nation’s cultural heritage, inspiring millions to laugh, cry, think, and change.  (Applause.)

Diana Ross.  (Applause and laughter.)  A daughter of Detroit, Diana Ross helped create the sound of Motown with her iconic voice.  From her groundbreaking work with The Supremes to a solo career that has spanned decades, she has influenced generations of young artists and shaped our Nation’s musical landscape.  In addition to a GRAMMY© Lifetime Achievement Award and countless musical accolades, Diana Ross has distinguished herself as an actor, earning an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award.  With over 25 albums, unforgettable hit singles, and live performances that continue to captivate audiences around the world, Diana Ross still reigns supreme.  (Applause.)

Next up, Vin Scully.  (Laughter and applause.)  With a voice that transcended a sport and transformed a profession, Vin Scully narrated America’s pastime for generations of fans.  Known to millions as the soundtrack of summer, he found time to teach us about life and love while chronicling routine plays and historic heroics.  In victory and in defeat, his colorful accounts reverberated through the bleachers, across the airwaves, and into our homes and imaginations.  He is an American treasure and a beloved storyteller, and our country’s gratitude for Vin Scully is as profound as his love for the game.  (Applause.)

Bruce F. Springsteen.  (Applause.)  As a songwriter, a humanitarian, America’s Rock and Roll laureate, and New Jersey’s greatest ambassador, Bruce Springsteen is, quite simply, The Boss.  (Laughter.)  Through stories about ordinary people, from Vietnam veterans to steel workers, his songs capture the pain and the promise of the American experience.  With his legendary E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen leaves everything on stage in epic, communal live performances that have rocked audiences for decades.  With empathy and honesty, he holds up a mirror to who we are — as Americans chasing our dreams, and as human beings trying to do the right thing.  There’s a place for everyone in Bruce Springsteen’s America.  (Applause.)

Cicely Tyson.  (Applause.)  For sixty years, Cicely Tyson has graced the screen and the stage, enlightening us with her groundbreaking characters and calls to conscience, humility, and hope.  Her achievements as an actor, her devotion to her faith, and her commitment to advancing equality for all Americans—especially women of color — have touched audiences of multiple generations.  From “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” to “Sounder,” to “The Trip to Bountiful,” Cicely Tyson’s performances illuminate the character of our people and the extraordinary possibilities of America.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  So, just on a personal note, part of the reason that these events are so special to me is because everybody on this stage has touched me in a very powerful, personal way — in ways that they probably couldn’t imagine.  Whether it was having been inspired by a song, or a game, or a story, or a film, or a monument, or in the case of Newt Minow introducing me to Michelle — (laughter) — these are folks who have helped make me who I am and think about my presidency, and what also makes them special is, this is America.

And it’s useful when you think about this incredible collection of people to realize that this is what makes us the greatest nation on Earth.  Not because of what we — (applause.)  Not because of our differences, but because, in our difference, we find something common to share.  And what a glorious thing that is.  What a great gift that is to America.

So I want all of you to enjoy the wonderful reception that will be taking place afterwards.  Michelle and I have to get back to work, unfortunately, but I hear the food is pretty good.  (Laughter.)  And I would like all of you to give one big rousing round of applause to our 2016 honorees for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Give it up.  (Applause.)

END
4:14 P.M. EST

Political Headlines August 9, 2013: White House Announces 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Announcing the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients

Source: WH, 8-8-13

President Barack Obama talks with former President Bill Clinton before an event in McLean, Va.President Barack Obama talks with former President Bill Clinton before an event in McLean, Va., Sunday, April 29, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

What do baseball player Ernie Banks, former President Bill Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey all have in common? Later this year, they will be honored by President Obama as three of the sixteen recipients of the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Fifty years ago, President Kennedy signed an Executive Order establishing the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the Nation’s highest civilian honor. President Obama said, “The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours. This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world. It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation’s gratitude.”

President Obama greets former astronaut Sally Ride at the launch of the "Educate to Innovate"Nov. 23, 2009President Obama greets former astronaut Sally Ride prior to the launch of the “Educate to Innovate” Campaign for Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (Stem) Education, in the South Court Auditorium of the White House, Nov. 23, 2009. (Official White House Photo)

This year, the Presidential Medal of Freedom will be awarded to:

  • Ernie Banks
  • Ben Bradlee
  • Bill Clinton
  • Daniel Inouye
  • Daniel Kahneman
  • Richard Lugar
  • Loretta Lynn
  • Mario Molina
  • Sally Ride
  • Bayard Rustin
  • Arturo Sandoval
  • Dean Smith
  • Gloria Steinem
  • Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian
  • Patricia Wald
  • Oprah Winfrey

Learn more about each of the 2013 Medal of Freedom recipients here.

Full Text Obama Presidency May 29, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Presidential Medal of Freedom Awards Ceremony

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA HONORS PRESIDENT MEDAL OF FREEDOM RECEIPIENTS IN WHITE HOUSE CEREMONY

Obama to honor Medal of Freedom recipients: President Barack Obama will honor a diverse cross-section of political and cultural icons — including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, astronaut John Glenn, basketball coach Pat Summitt and rock legend Bob Dylan…. – AP, 5-29-12

  • Albright, World War II hero among 13 to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom: The first woman to serve as US Secretary of State and a Polish officer who provided some of the first accounts of the Holocaust are among 13 people who will be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday…. – CNN, 5-30-12

President Obama Awards the Medal of Freedom

Source: WH, 5-29-12

President Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Pat Summitt (May 29, 2012)
President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former University of Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 29, 2012. Looking on at left is author Toni Morrison who also received the Medal of Freedom. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Today, President Obama honored 13 Americans with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

This year’s recipients include cultural icons like Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison, as well as groundbreaking pioneers like former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Pat Summit, the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history. Also honored were Dolores Huerta, who cofounded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez, and Jan Karski, whose work in the Polish resistance allowed him to share a first-hand account of the Holocaust with Western Allies.

The President said:

Together, the honorees on this stage, and the ones who couldn’t be here, have moved us with their words; they have inspired us with their actions. They’ve enriched our lives and they’ve changed our lives for the better. Some of them are household names; others have labored quietly out of the public eye. Most of them may never fully appreciate the difference they’ve made or the influence that they’ve had, but that’s where our job comes in. It’s our job to help let them know how extraordinary their impact has been on our lives. And so today we present this amazing group with one more accolade for a life well led, and that’s the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Medal of Freedom is highest honor awarded to civilians in the United States. It was established in 1963 by President Kennedy and is presented to those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

See the full list of honorees here.

Remarks by the President at Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony

* Note – the language in asterisks below is historically inaccurate. It should instead have been: “Nazi death camps in German occupied Poland”. We regret the error.

East Room

3:45 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Everybody, please have a seat, and welcome to the White House.  It is an extraordinary pleasure to be here with all of you to present this year’s Medals of Freedom.  And I have to say, just looking around the room, this is a packed house, which is a testament to how cool this group is.  (Laughter.)  Everybody wanted to check them out.

This is the highest civilian honor this country can bestow, which is ironic, because nobody sets out to win it.  No one ever picks up a guitar, or fights a disease, or starts a movement, thinking, “You know what, if I keep this up, in 2012, I could get a medal in the White House from a guy named Barack Obama.”  (Laughter.)  That wasn’t in the plan.

But that’s exactly what makes this award so special.  Every one of today’s honorees is blessed with an extraordinary amount of talent.  All of them are driven.  But, yes, we could fill this room many times over with people who are talented and driven.  What sets these men and women apart is the incredible impact they have had on so many people — not in short, blinding bursts, but steadily, over the course of a lifetime.

Together, the honorees on this stage, and the ones who couldn’t be here, have moved us with their words; they have inspired us with their actions.  They’ve enriched our lives and they’ve changed our lives for the better.  Some of them are household names; others have labored quietly out of the public eye.  Most of them may never fully appreciate the difference they’ve made or the influence that they’ve had, but that’s where our job comes in.  It’s our job to help let them know how extraordinary their impact has been on our lives.  And so today we present this amazing group with one more accolade for a life well led, and that’s the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

So I’m going to take an opportunity — I hope you guys don’t mind — to brag about each of you, starting with Madeleine Albright.

Usually, Madeleine does the talking.  (Laughter.)  Once in a while, she lets her jewelry do the talking.  (Laughter.)  When Saddam Hussein called her a “snake,” she wore a serpent on her lapel — (laughter) — the next time she visited Baghdad.  When Slobodan Milosevic referred to her as a “goat,” a new pin appeared in her collection.

As the first woman to serve as America’s top diplomat, Madeleine’s courage and toughness helped bring peace to the Balkans and paved the way for progress in some of the most unstable corners of the world.  And as an immigrant herself — the granddaughter of Holocaust victims who fled her native Czechoslovakia as a child — Madeleine brought a unique perspective to the job.  This is one of my favorite stories.  Once, at a naturalization ceremony, an Ethiopian man came up to her and said, “Only in America can a refugee meet the Secretary of State.”  And she replied, “Only in America can a refugee become the Secretary of State.”  (Laughter.)  We’re extraordinarily honored to have Madeleine here.  And obviously, I think it’s fair to say I speak for one of your successors who is so appreciative of the work you did and the path that you laid.

It was a scorching hot day in 1963, and Mississippi was on the verge of a massacre.  The funeral procession for Medgar Evers had just disbanded, and a group of marchers was throwing rocks at a line of equally defiant and heavily-armed policemen.  And suddenly, a white man in shirtsleeves, hands raised, walked towards the protestors and talked them into going home peacefully.  And that man was John Doar.  He was the face of the Justice Department in the South.  He was proof that the federal government was listening.  And over the years, John escorted James Meredith to the University of Mississippi.  He walked alongside the Selma-to-Montgomery March.  He laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  In the words of John Lewis, “He gave [civil rights workers] a reason not to give up on those in power.”  And he did it by never giving up on them.  And I think it’s fair to say that I might not be here had it not been for his work.

Bob Dylan started out singing other people’s songs.  But, as he says, “There came a point where I had to write what I wanted to say, because what I wanted to say, nobody else was writing.”  So born in Hibbing, Minnesota — a town, he says, where “you couldn’t be a rebel — it was too cold” — (laughter) — Bob moved to New York at age 19.  By the time he was 23, Bob’s voice, with its weight, its unique, gravelly power was redefining not just what music sounded like, but the message it carried and how it made people feel.  Today, everybody from Bruce Springsteen to U2 owes Bob a debt of gratitude.  There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music.  All these years later, he’s still chasing that sound, still searching for a little bit of truth.  And I have to say that I am a really big fan.  (Laughter.)

In the 1960s, more than 2 million people died from smallpox every year.  Just over a decade later, that number was zero — 2 million to zero, thanks, in part, to Dr. Bill Foege.  As a young medical missionary working in Nigeria, Bill helped develop a vaccination strategy that would later be used to eliminate smallpox from the face of the Earth.  And when that war was won, he moved on to other diseases, always trying to figure out what works.  In one remote Nigerian village, after vaccinating 2,000 people in a single day, Bill asked the local chief how he had gotten so many people to show up.  And the chief explained that he had told everyone to come see — to “come to the village and see the tallest man in the world.”  (Laughter.)  Today, that world owes that really tall man a great debt of gratitude.

On the morning that John Glenn blasted off into space, America stood still.  And for half an hour, the phones stopped ringing in Chicago police headquarters, and New York subway drivers offered a play-by-play account over the loudspeakers.  President Kennedy interrupted a breakfast with congressional leaders and joined 100 million TV viewers to hear the famous words, “Godspeed, John Glenn.”  The first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn became a hero in every sense of the word, but he didn’t stop there serving his country.  As a senator, he found new ways to make a difference.  And on his second trip into space at age 77, he defied the odds once again.  But he reminds everybody, don’t tell him he’s lived a historic life.  He says, “Are living.”  He’ll say, “Don’t put it in the past tense.”  He’s still got a lot of stuff going on.

Gordon Hirabayashi knew what it was like to stand alone.  As a student at the University of Washington, Gordon was one of only three Japanese Americans to defy the executive order that forced thousands of families to leave their homes, their jobs, and their civil rights behind and move to internment camps during World War II.  He took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, and he lost.  And it would be another 40 years before that decision was reversed, giving Asian Americans everywhere a small measure of justice.  In Gordon’s words, “It takes a crisis to tell us that unless citizens are willing to standup for the [Constitution], it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”  And this country is better off because of citizens like him who are willing to stand up.

Similarly, when Cesar Chavez sat Dolores Huerta down at his kitchen table and told her they should start a union, she thought he was joking.  She was a single mother of seven children, so she obviously didn’t have a lot of free time.  But Dolores had been an elementary school teacher and remembered seeing children come to school hungry and without shoes.  So in the end, she agreed — and workers everywhere are glad that she did.  Without any negotiating experience, Dolores helped lead a worldwide grape boycott that forced growers to agree to some of the country’s first farm worker contracts.  And ever since, she has fought to give more people a seat at the table.  “Don’t wait to be invited,” she says, “Step in there.”  And on a personal note, Dolores was very gracious when I told her I had stolen her slogan, “Si, se puede.”  Yes, we can.  (Laughter.)  Knowing her, I’m pleased that she let me off easy — (laughter) — because Dolores does not play.  (Laughter.)

For years, Jan Karski’s students at Georgetown University knew he was a great professor; what they didn’t realize was he was also a hero.  Fluent in four languages, possessed of a photographic memory, Jan served as a courier for the Polish resistance during the darkest days of World War II.  Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale, and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a *Polish death camp* to see for himself.  Jan took that information to President Franklin Roosevelt, giving one of the first accounts of the Holocaust and imploring to the world to take action.  It was decades before Jan was ready to tell his story.  By then, he said, “I don’t need courage anymore.  So I teach compassion.”

Growing up in Georgia in the late 1800s, Juliette Gordon Low was not exactly typical.  She flew airplanes.  She went swimming.  She experimented with electricity for fun.  (Laughter.)  And she recognized early on that in order to keep up with the changing times, women would have to be prepared.  So at age 52, after meeting the founder of the Boy Scouts in England, Juliette came home and called her cousin and said, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world.  And we’re going to start it tonight!”  A century later, almost 60 million Girl Scouts have gained leadership skills and self-confidence through the organization that she founded.  They include CEOs, astronauts, my own Secretary of State.  And from the very beginning, they have also included girls of different races and faiths and abilities, just the way that Juliette would have wanted it.

Toni Morrison — she is used to a little distraction.  As a single mother working at a publishing company by day, she would carve out a little time in the evening to write, often with her two sons pulling on her hair and tugging at her earrings.  Once, a baby spit up on her tablet so she wrote around it.  (Laughter.)  Circumstances may not have been ideal, but the words that came out were magical.  Toni Morrison’s prose brings us that kind of moral and emotional intensity that few writers ever attempt.  From “Song of Solomon” to “Beloved,” Toni reaches us deeply, using a tone that is lyrical, precise, distinct, and inclusive.  She believes that language “arcs toward the place where meaning might lie.”  The rest of us are lucky to be following along for the ride.

During oral argument, Justice John Paul Stevens often began his line of questioning with a polite, “May I interrupt?” or “May I ask a question?”  You can imagine the lawyers would say, “okay” — (laughter) — after which he would, just as politely, force a lawyer to stop dancing around and focus on the most important issues in the case.  And that was his signature style:  modest, insightful, well-prepared, razor-sharp.  He is the third-longest serving Justice in the history of the Court.  And Justice Stevens applied, throughout his career, his clear and graceful manner to the defense of individual rights and the rule of law, always favoring a pragmatic solution over an ideological one.  Ever humble, he would happily comply when unsuspecting tourists asked him to take their picture in front of the Court.  (Laughter.)  And at his vacation home in Florida, he was John from Arlington, better known for his world-class bridge game than his world-changing judicial opinions.  Even in his final days on the bench, Justice Stevens insisted he was still “learning on the job.”  But in the end, we are the ones who have learned from him.

When a doctor first told Pat Summitt she suffered from dementia, she almost punched him.  When a second doctor advised her to retire, she responded, “Do you know who you’re dealing with here?”  (Laughter.)  Obviously, they did not.  As Pat says, “I can fix a tractor, mow hay, plow a field, chop tobacco, fire a barn, and call the cows.  But what I’m really known for is winning.”  In 38 years at Tennessee, she racked up eight national championships and more than 1,000 wins — understand, this is more than any college coach, male or female, in the history of the NCAA.  And more importantly, every player that went through her program has either graduated or is on her way to a degree.  That’s why anybody who feels sorry for Pat will find themselves on the receiving end of that famous glare, or she might punch you.  (Laughter.)  She’s still getting up every day and doing what she does best, which is teaching.  “The players,” she says, “are my best medicine.”

Our final honoree is not here — Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, who has done more for the cause of peace in the Middle East than just about anybody alive.  I’ll be hosting President Peres for a dinner here at the White House next month, and we’ll be presenting him with his medal and honoring his incredible contributions to the state of Israel and the world at that time.  So I’m looking forward to welcoming him.  And if it’s all right with you, I will save my best lines about him for that occasion.

So these are the recipients of the 2012 Medals of Freedom.  And just on a personal note, I had a chance to see everybody in the back.  What’s wonderful about these events for me is so many of these people are my heroes individually.  I know how they impacted my life.

I remember reading “Song of Solomon” when I was a kid and not just trying to figure out how to write, but also how to be and how to think.  And I remember in college listening to Bob Dylan and my world opening up because he captured something that — about this country that was so vital.  And I think about Dolores Huerta, reading about her when I was starting off as an organizer.

Everybody on this stage has marked my life in profound ways.  And I was telling — somebody like Pat Summitt — when I think about my two daughters, who are tall and gifted, and knowing that because of folks like Coach Summitt they’re standing up straight and diving after loose balls and feeling confident and strong, then I understand that the impact that these people have had extends beyond me.  It will continue for generations to come.  What an extraordinary honor to be able to say thank you to all of them for the great work that they have done on behalf of this country and on behalf of the world.

So it is now my great honor to present them with a small token of our appreciation.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Presidential Medal of Freedom citations:

Madeleine Korbel Albright.  Madeleine Korbel Albright broke barriers and left an indelible mark on the world as the first female Secretary of State in the United States’ history.  Through her consummate diplomacy and steadfast democratic ideals, Secretary Albright advanced peace in the Middle East, nuclear arms control, justice in the Balkans, and human rights around the world.  With unwavering leadership and continued engagement with the global community, she continues her noble pursuit of freedom and dignity for all people.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think this goes very well with your broach.  (Laughter.)

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  John Doar.  As African Americans strove for justice, John Doar led federal efforts to defend equality and enforce civil rights.  Risking his life to confront the injustices around him, he prevented a violent riot, obtained convictions for the killings of civil rights activists, and stood by the first African American student at the University of Mississippi on his first day of class.  During pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Movement and in the troubled times of the Watergate scandal, John Doar fought to protect the core values of liberty, equality and democracy that have made America a leader among nations.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Bill Foege.

THE PRESIDENT:  He is pretty tall.  (Laughter.)

MILITARY AIDE:  A distinguished physician and epidemiologist, Bill Foege helped lead a campaign to eradicate smallpox that stands among medicine’s greatest success stories.  At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Carter Center, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he has taken on humanity’s most intractable public health challenges from infectious diseases to child survival and development.  Bill Foege has driven decades of progress to safeguard the well-being of all, and he has inspired a generation of leaders in the fight for a healthier world.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

John Glenn has set a peerless example through his service to our nation.  As a Marine Corps pilot and the first American to orbit the Earth, he sparked our passions for ingenuity and adventure and lifted humanity’s ambitions into the expanses of space.  In the United States Senate, he worked tirelessly to ensure all Americans had the opportunity to reach for limitless dreams.  Whether by advancing legislation to limit the spread of nuclear weapons or by becoming the oldest person ever to visit space, John Glenn’s example has moved us all to look to new horizons with drive and optimism.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Susan Carnahan, accepting on behalf of her husband Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi.  In his open defiance of discrimination against Japanese Americans during World War II, Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi demanded our nation live up to its founding principles.  Imprisoned for ignoring curfew and refusing to register for internment camps, he took his case to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1943.  Refusing to abandon his belief in an America that stands for fundamental human rights, he pursued justice until his conviction was overturned in 1987.  Gordon Hirabayashi’s legacy reminds us that patriotism is rooted not in ethnicity, but in our shared ideals.  And his example will forever call on us to defend the liberty of all our citizens.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta.  One of America’s great labor and civil rights icons, Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta has devoted her life to advocating for marginalized communities.  Alongside Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the United Farm Workers of America and fought to secure basic rights for migrant workers and their families, helping save thousands from neglect and abuse.  Dolores Huerta has never lost faith in the power of community organizing, and through the Dolores Huerta Foundation, she continues to train and mentor new activists to walk the streets into history.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Adam Daniel Rotfeld, former Polish foreign minister accepting on behalf of Jan Karski.  As a young officer in the Polish Underground, Jan Karski was among the first to relay accounts of the Holocaust to the world.  A witness to atrocity in the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazi Izbica transit camp, he repeatedly crossed enemy line to document the face of genocide, and courageously voiced tragic truths all the way to President Roosevelt.  Jan Karski illuminated one of the darkest chapters of history, and his heroic intervention on behalf of the innocent will never be forgotten.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Richard Platt, accepting on behalf of his great aunt, Juliette Gordon Low.  An artist, athlete and trailblazer for America’s daughters, Juliette Gordon Low founded an organization to teach young women self-reliance and resourcefulness.  A century later, during the “Year of the Girl,” the Girl Scouts’ more than 3 million members are leaders in their communities and are translating new skills into successful careers.  Americans of all backgrounds continue to draw inspiration from Juliette Gordon Low’s remarkable vision, and we celebrate her dedication to empowering girls everywhere.

(The medal is presented.  Applause.)

Toni Morrison.  The first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize, Toni Morrison is one of our nation’s most distinguished storytellers.  She has captivated readers through lyrical prose that depicts the complexities of a people and challenges our concepts of race and gender.  Her works are hallmarks of the American literary tradition, and the United States proudly honors her for her nursing of souls and strengthening the character of our union.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

John Paul Stevens.  From the Navy to the bench, John Paul Stevens has devoted himself to service to our nation.  After earning a Bronze Star in World War II, Stevens returned home to pursue a career in law.  As an attorney, he became a leading practitioner of anti-trust law.  And as a Supreme Court Justice, he dedicated his long and distinguished tenure to applying our Constitution with fidelity and independence.  His integrity, humility, and steadfast commitment to the rule of law have fortified the noble vision of our nation’s founders.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Pat Summitt.  Pat Summitt is an unparalleled figure in collegiate sports.  Over 38 seasons, she proudly led the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers to 32 SEC tournament and regular season championships and eight national titles, becoming the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history.  On the court, Coach Summitt inspired young women across our country to shoot even higher in pursuit of their dreams.  Off the court, she has inspired us all by turning her personal struggle into a public campaign to combat Alzheimer’s disease.  Pat Summitt’s strength and character exemplify all that is best about athletics in America.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Bob Dylan.  A modern-day troubadour, Bob Dylan established himself as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.  The rich poetry of his lyrics opened up new possibilities for popular song and inspired generations.  His melodies have brought ancient traditions into the modern age.  More than 50 years after his career began, Bob Dylan remains an eminent voice in our national conversation and around the world.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Can everybody please stand and give a rousing applause to our Medal of Freedom winners?  (Applause.)

Well, we could not be prouder of all of them.  We could not be more grateful to all of them.  You have had an impact on all of us, and I know that you will continue to have an impact on all of us.  So thank you for being here.  Thank you for putting yourself through White House ceremonies — (laughter) — which are always full of all kinds of protocol.

Fortunately, we also have a reception afterwards.  I hear the food around here is pretty good.  (Laughter.)  So I look forward to all of you having a chance to stay and mingle, and again, thank you again, to all of you.  (Applause.)

END                4:22 P.M. EDT

April 26, 2012

President Obama Names Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients

WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama named thirteen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  The Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.  The awards will be presented at the White House in late spring.

President Obama said, “These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our Nation.  They’ve challenged us, they’ve inspired us, and they’ve made the world a better place.  I look forward to recognizing them with this award.”

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Madeleine Albright
From 1997 to 2001, under President William J. Clinton, Albright served as the 64th United States Secretary of State, the first woman to hold that position.  During her tenure, she worked to enlarge NATO and helped lead the Alliance’s campaign against terror and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, pursued peace in the Middle East and Africa, sought to reduce the dangerous spread of nuclear weapons, and was a champion of democracy, human rights, and good governance across the globe.  From 1993 to 1997, she was America’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.  Since leaving office, she founded the Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management, returned to teaching at Georgetown University, and authored five books.  Albright chairs the National Democratic Institute and is President of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.

John Doar
Doar was a legendary public servant and leader of federal efforts to protect and enforce civil rights during the 1960s.  He served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.  In that capacity, he was instrumental during many major civil rights crises, including singlehandedly preventing a riot in Jackson, Mississippi, following the funeral of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evars in 1963.  Doar brought notable civil rights cases, including obtaining convictions for the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi, and leading the effort to enforce the right to vote and implement the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  He later served as Special Counsel to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary as it investigated the Watergate scandal and considered articles of impeachment against President Nixon.  Doar continues to practice law at Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack in New York.

Bob Dylan
One of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century, Dylan released his first album in 1962.  Known for his rich and poetic lyrics, his work had considerable influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has had significant impact on American culture over the past five decades.  He has won 11 Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award.  He was named a Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Art et des Lettres and has received a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.  Dylan was awarded the 2009 National Medal of Arts.  He has written more than 600 songs, and his songs have been recorded more than 3,000 times by other artists.  He continues recording and touring around the world today.

William Foege
A physician and epidemiologist, Foege helped lead the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s.  He was appointed Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1977 and, with colleagues, founded the Task Force for Child Survival in 1984.  Foege became Executive Director of The Carter Center in 1986 and continues to serve the organization as a Senior Fellow.  He helped shape the global health work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and remains a champion of a wide array of issues, including child survival and development, injury prevention, and preventative medicine.  Foege’s leadership has contributed significantly to increased awareness and action on global health issues, and his enthusiasm, energy, and effectiveness in these endeavors have inspired a generation of leaders in public health.

John Glenn
Glenn is a former United States Marine Corps pilot, astronaut, and United States Senator.  In 1962, he was the third American in space and the first American to orbit the Earth.  After retiring from the Marine Corps, Glenn was elected to the U.S. Senate in Ohio in 1974. He was an architect and sponsor of the 1978 Nonproliferation Act and served as Chairman of the Senate Government Affairs committee from 1987 until 1995.  In 1998, Glenn became the oldest person to visit space at the age of 77. He retired from the Senate in 1999. Glenn is a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Gordon Hirabayashi
Hirabayashi openly defied the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, he refused the order to report for evacuation to an internment camp, instead turning himself in to the FBI to assert his belief that these practices were racially discriminatory.  Consequently, he was convicted by a U.S. Federal District Court in Seattle of defying the exclusion order and violating curfew.  Hirabayashi appealed his conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1943.  Following World War II and his time in prison, Hirabayashi obtained his doctoral degree in sociology and became a professor.  In 1987, his conviction was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Hirabayashi died on January 2, 2012.

Dolores Huerta
Huerta is a civil rights, workers, and women’s advocate. With Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the National Farmworkers Association in 1962, which later became the United Farm Workers of America.  Huerta has served as a community activist and a political organizer, and was influential in securing the passage of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, and disability insurance for farmworkers in California.  In 2002, she founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation, an organization dedicated to developing community organizers and national leaders.  In 1998, President Clinton awarded her the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights.

Jan Karski
Karski served as an officer in the Polish Underground during World War II and carried among the first eye-witness accounts of the Holocaust to the world.  He worked as a courier, entering the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi Izbica transit camp, where he saw first-hand the atrocities occurring under Nazi occupation.  Karski later traveled to London to meet with the Polish government-in-exile and with British government officials.  He subsequently traveled to the United States and met with President Roosevelt.  Karski published Story of a Secret State, earned a Ph.D at Georgetown University, and became a professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.  Born in 1914, Karski became a U.S. citizen in 1954 and died in 2000.

Juliette Gordon Low
Born in 1860, Low founded the Girl Scouts in 1912.  The organization strives to teach girls self-reliance and resourcefulness.  It also encourages girls to seek fulfillment in the professional world and to become active citizens in their communities.  Since 1912, the Girl Scouts has grown into the largest educational organization for girls and has had over 50 million members.  Low died in 1927.  This year, the Girl Scouts celebrate their 100th Anniversary, calling 2012 “The Year of the Girl.”

Toni Morrison
One of our nation’s most celebrated novelists, Morrison is renowned for works such as Song of Solomon, Jazz, and Beloved, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988.  When she became the first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1993, Morrison’s citation captured her as an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”  She created the Princeton Atelier at Princeton University to convene artists and students.  Morrison continues to write today.

Shimon Peres
An ardent advocate for Israel’s security and for peace, Shimon Peres was elected the ninth President of Israel in 2007.  First elected to the Knesset in 1959, he has served in a variety of positions throughout the Israeli government, including in twelve Cabinets as Foreign Minister, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Transport and Communications.  Peres served as Prime Minister from 1984-1986 and 1995-1996.  Along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his work as Foreign Minister during the Middle East peace talks that led to the Oslo Accords. Through his life and work, he has strengthened the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States.

John Paul Stevens
Stevens served as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010, when he retired as the third longest-serving Justice in the Court’s history.  Known for his independent, pragmatic and rigorous approach to judging, Justice Stevens and his work have left a lasting imprint on the law in areas such as civil rights, the First Amendment, the death penalty, administrative law, and the separation of powers.  He was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford, and previously served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  Stevens is a veteran of World War II, in which he served as a naval intelligence officer and was awarded the Bronze Star.

Pat Summitt
In addition to accomplishing an outstanding career as the all-time winningest leader among all NCAA basketball coaches, Summitt has taken the University of Tennessee to more Final Four appearances than any other coach and has the second best record of NCAA Championships in basketball.  She has received numerous awards, including being named Naismith Women’s Collegiate Coach of the Century.  Off the court, she has been a spokesperson against Alzheimer’s.  The Pat Summitt Foundation will make grants to nonprofits to provide education and awareness, support to patients and families, and research to prevent, cure and ultimately eradicate early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.

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