For Immediate Release
President Honors Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Office of the Press Secretary
July 9, 2002
Remarks by the President at Presentation of Presidential Medal of Freedom
The East Room
3:05 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated. Thank you all very much. Good
afternoon, and welcome to the White House. Laura and I are honored to
welcome our recipients and family members and friends to the people's
As we honor today's Presidential Medal of Freedom winners, I want
to acknowledge the presence of our great Secretary of State Colin
Powell, and his wife Alma. (Applause.) Secretary Powell has won the
Presidential Medal of Freedom twice -- once with distinction. I'm
not sure what happened the other time. (Laughter.)
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civil honor our
nation can bestow. And we award it today to 12 outstanding
individuals. The men and women we honor span the spectrum of
achievement. Some are fighters; others are healers; all have left an
enduring legacy of hope and courage and achievement.
Hank Aaron overcame poverty and racism to become one of the most
accomplished baseball players of all time. "When I was in a ballpark,"
he said, "I felt like I was surrounded by angels, and I had God's hand
on my shoulder." By steadily pursuing his calling in the face of
unreasoning hatred, Hank Aaron has proven himself a great human being,
as well as a great athlete.
Bill Cosby is a gifted comedian who has used the power of laughter
to heal wounds and to build bridges. "I don't think you can bring the
races together by joking about the differences between them," he said.
"I'd rather talk about the similarities, about what's universal in
their experiences." By focusing on our common humanity, Bill Cosby is
helping to create a truly united America.
Placido Domingo has performed in more roles than any other tenor in
the history of opera. His boundless admiration for the composers of
the great operatic music makes him push himself to the limit. "They
spend years creating operas," Placido has said, "lots of suffering and
lots of sweating." Well, by suffering and sweating himself, Placido
Domingo is making sure that the great music of the past will continue
to delight opera lovers the world over.
The week after September the 11th, Peter Drucker sent a letter to
his friends and associates urging them "not to abandon daily life in
civil society. That's exactly what the terrorist wants," he said.
Peter Drucker has devoted his life to strengthening civil society. His
determination to help our non-profit and faith-based institutions carry
out their desperately needed missions more effectively has made him one
of the greatest management experts of our time.
Katherine Graham was a forceful, courageous, and deeply principled
newspaper publisher. She described herself as someone who suffered
from a sense of inferiority, but who was forced to become a leader
after her husband's death. "What I essentially did," she wrote, "was
to put one foot in front of the other, shut my eyes, and step off the
edge." Under her brilliant guidance, The Washington Post has become
one of America's most powerful newspapers. Katherine Graham will
always be remembered for her determined pursuit of journalistic
D.A. Henderson is a great general in mankind's war against
disease. From 1966 to 1977 he led the World Health Organization's
Global Smallpox Eradication Campaign. Today, he is helping protect
America from the threat of bioterrorism. "We need to plan, not panic,"
says this master medical planner. Our nation is fortunate to be able
to draw on D.A. Henderson's great store of wisdom and experience as we
work to lift the dark threat of terrorism from the nation and our
Irving Kristol is a wide-ranging thinker whose writings have helped
transform America's political landscape. As young men, he and his
fellow student radicals in City College's "Alcove Number One," devoted
themselves to solving the ultimate problems of the human race. Today,
Irving Kristol is still grappling with ultimate problems, and in
thinking them through, he has vastly enlarged the conservative vision.
Shortly after he arrived on South Africa's Robben Island to begin
serving his prison sentence for resisting apartheid, Nelson Mandela
refused an order to jog from the harbor to the prison gate. When a
prison warden threatened to kill him, here's what he said: "If you so
much as lay a hand on me, I will take you to the highest court in the
land, and when I finish with you, you'll be as poor as a church
mouse." (Laughter.) The warden backed off and so, eventually, did
other, more powerful representatives of apartheid -- all of whom were
humbled by Mandela's immense moral authority. It is this moral stature
that has made Nelson Mandela perhaps the most revered statesman of our
Gordon Moore is a great businessman and innovator. His interest in
science was sparked by a chemistry set when he was a boy. "With the
chemistry set," he recalls, "I had to get a good explosion at the end,
or I wasn't happy." (Laughter.) In the worlds of business, science
and philanthropy, Gordon Moore has been setting off explosives ever
since. And the ripple effects of his explosive genius have helped
create our age of information.
Nancy Reagan has devoted herself to her family and her country. As
First Lady of California, she spoke out eloquently on behalf of POWs
and American servicemen missing in action. As First Lady of the United
States, she has led an anti-drug campaign -- she led an anti-drug
campaign that helped reduce teenage drug abuse. Today we honor Nancy
Reagan for her eloquent example of loyalty and courage and abiding
Fred Rogers has proven that television can sooth the soul and
nurture the spirit and teach the very young. "The whole idea," says
the beloved host of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, "is to look at the
television camera and present as much love as you possibly could to a
person who needs it." This message of unconditional love has won Fred
Rogers a very special place in the heart of a lot of moms and dads all
A.M. Rosenthal's calling is journalism; his passion is human
rights. "When I come out for human rights," he says, "I'm not talking
in the abstract. I know that if I lived in a dictatorship, I would be
in jail very quickly." A.M. Rosenthal's outspoken defense of
persecuted Christians in Asia, Africa and the Middle East have truly
made him his brother's keeper.
Each of these men and women has enriched the life of America and
the world. And we're honored to have them with us here today.
And now the military aide will call each of the winners forward and
read their citations.
(The citations are read.)
THE PRESIDENT: Again, I want to thank you all for coming to honor
such remarkable men and women. The Presidential Medal of Freedom,
established by President Kennedy in 1963, recognizes individuals who
have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or
national interests of the United States, or to world peace, or to
cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." I'm sure
you'll agree that today's Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients
richly deserve their honor.
And now, Laura and I would like to invite you all to join us for a
reception in honor of today's distinguished Presidential Medal of
Freedom recipients, in the room back here in the back.
May God bless our recipients, and may God bless you all.
END 3:28 P.M. EDT