President Obama Honors 2013 Medal of Freedom Recipients


The President:
Good morning!
Good morning, everybody! Everybody, please have a seat. Have a seat. Well… on behalf of
Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House. This is one of my favorite
events every year, especially special this year,
as I look at this extraordinary group of individuals
and our opportunity to honor them with our nation’s
highest civilian honor — the Presidential
Medal of Freedom. And this year, it’s just
a little more special because this marks
the 50th anniversary of President
Kennedy establishing this award. We’re honored, by the way,
today to have with us one of my favorite
people — Ethel Kennedy — and a pretty good
basketball player, President Kennedy’s
grandson, Jack. [applause] This medal has been bestowed on
more than 500 deserving people. Tonight, I’m looking forward to
joining some of these honorees, as well as members
of the Kennedy family, as we pay tribute to these
50 years of excellence. And this morning,
we’re honored to add 16 new names
to this distinguished list. Today, we salute
fierce competitors who became true champions. In the sweltering heat
of a Chicago summer, Ernie Banks walked
into the Cubs locker room and didn’t like what he saw. “Everybody was sitting
around, heads down, depressed,” he recalled. So Ernie piped up and said,
“Boy, what a great day! Let’s play two!” [laughter] That’s “Mr. Cub” — a man who came up
through the Negro Leagues, making $7 a day, and became the first black
player to suit up for the Cubs and one of the greatest
hitters of all time. And in the process,
Ernie became known as much for his 512 home runs as
for his cheer and his optimism and his eternal faith that someday the Cubs
would go all the way. [laughter] And that’s serious belief. [laughter] That is something that
even a White Sox fan like me can respect. [laughter] But he is just a wonderful man
and a great icon of my hometown. Speaking of sports, Dean Smith
is one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history, but his successes go
far beyond Xs and Os. Even as he won
78 percent of his games, he graduated
96 percent of his players. The first coach to use
multiple defenses in a game, he was the pioneer who
popularized the idea of “pointing to the passer” — after a basket, players
should point to the teammate who passed them the ball. And with his first
national title on the line, he did have the
good sense to give the ball to a 19-year-old kid
named Michael Jordan. [laughter] Although they used to
joke that the only person who ever held Michael
under 20 was Dean Smith. [laughter] While Coach Smith couldn’t
join us today due to an illness that he’s facing with
extraordinary courage, we also honor his courage in
helping to change our country — he recruited the first
black scholarship athlete to North Carolina and helped
to integrate a restaurant and a neighborhood
in Chapel Hill. That’s the kind of character
that he represented on and off the court. We salute innovators who
pushed the limits of science, changing how we see the
world — and ourselves. And growing up, Sally Ride
read about the space program in the newspaper
almost every day, and she thought this was
“the coolest thing around.” When she was a PhD candidate
at Stanford she saw an ad for astronauts
in the student newspaper and she seized the opportunity. As the first American
woman in space, Sally didn’t just break the
stratospheric glass ceiling, she blasted through it. And when she came back to Earth, she devoted her life
to helping girls excel in fields like math,
science and engineering. “Young girls need to see
role models,” she said, “you can’t be what
you can’t see.” Today, our daughters —
including Malia and Sasha — can set their sights
a little bit higher because Sally Ride
showed them the way. Now, all of us have moments
when we look back and wonder, “What the heck was I thinking?” I have that — [laughter] — quite a bit. [laughter] Psychologist Daniel Kahneman
has made that simple question his life’s work. In a storied career
in Israel and America, he basically invented the
study of human decision-making. He’s helped us
to understand everything from behavioral economics to “Does living in California
make people happy?” It’s an interesting question. He’s also been called an expert
on irrational behavior — so I’m sure that he could shed
some light on Washington. [laughter] But what truly sets Daniel
apart is his curiosity. Guided by his belief that people are “endlessly
complicated and interesting,” at 79 he’s still
discovering new insights into how we think and learn, not just so we
understand each other, but so we can work and live
together more effectively. Dr. Mario Molina’s
love of science started as a young boy in Mexico City,
in a homemade laboratory in a bathroom at home. And that passion
for discovery led Mario to become one of the most
respected chemists of his era. He was awarded
the Nobel Peace Prize — or the Nobel Prize, rather, not only for his
path-breaking research, but also for his insistence that when we ignore
dangerous carbon emissions we risk destroying
the ozone layer and endangering our planet. And thanks to Mario’s work,
the world came together to address a common threat, and today,
inspired by his example, we’re working to leave our
planet safer and cleaner for future generations. We also have to
salute musicians, who bring such joy to our lives. Loretta Lynn was 19 the
first time she won the big — she won big at the local fair. Her canned vegetables brought
home 17 blue ribbons — [laughter] — and made her
“Canner of the Year.” [laughter] Now, that’s impressive. [laughter] For a girl from Butcher Hollow,
Kentucky, that was fame. Fortunately for all of us,
she decided to try her hand at things other than canning. Her first guitar cost $17, and with it
this coal miner’s daughter gave voice to a generation, singing what no
one wanted to talk about and saying what no one
wanted to think about. And now, over 50 years after
she cut her first record — and canned her
first vegetables — [laughter] — Loretta Lynn still
reigns as the rule-breaking, record-setting queen
of country music. As a young man in Cuba, Arturo Sandoval
loved jazz so much it landed him in jail. It was the Cold War,
and the only radio station where he could hear jazz
was the Voice of America, which was dangerous
to listen to. But Arturo listened anyway. Later, he defected
to the United States knowing he might
never see his parents or beloved homeland again. “Without freedom,”
he said, “there is no life.” And today,
Arturo is an American citizen and one of the most celebrated
trumpet players in the world. “There isn’t any place on Earth where the people
don’t know about jazz,” he says, and that’s true in
part because musicians like him have sacrificed
so much to play it. We salute pioneers
who pushed our nation towards greater
justice and equality. A Baptist minister, C.T. Vivian was one of
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s closest advisors. “Martin taught us,” he says,
“that it’s in the action that we find out
who we really are.” And time and again,
Reverend Vivian was among the first
to be in the action: In 1947, joining a sit-in to integrate an
Illinois restaurant; one of the first Freedom Riders; in Selma,
on the courthouse steps to register blacks to vote, for which he was beaten,
bloodied and jailed. Rosa Parks said of him, “Even after things had
supposedly been taken care of and we had our rights, he was still out there, inspiring the next
generation, including me,” helping kids go to
college with a program that would become Upward Bound. And at 89 years old, Reverend
Vivian is still out there, still in the action, pushing us
closer to our founding ideals. Now, early in the morning the
day of the March on Washington, the National Mall was far from
full and some in the press were beginning to wonder if the
event would be a failure. But the march’s chief organizer,
Bayard Rustin, didn’t panic. As the story goes, he looked
down at a piece of paper, looked back up,
and reassured reporters that everything was
right on schedule. The only thing those reporters
didn’t know was that the paper he was holding was blank. [laughter] He didn’t know how it
was going to work out, but Bayard had an unshakable
optimism, nerves of steel, and, most importantly, a faith that if the cause is
just and people are organized, nothing can stand in our way. So, for decades,
this great leader, often at Dr. King’s side,
was denied his rightful place in history because
he was openly gay. No medal can change
that, but today, we honor Bayard Rustin’s memory
by taking our place in his march towards true equality, no matter
who we are or who we love. [applause] Speaking of
game-changers, disrupters, there was a young girl names
Gloria Steinem who arrived in New York to make her
mark as a journalist, and magazines only wanted to
write articles like “How to Cook without Really Cooking for Men.” [laughter] Gloria noticed things like that. [laughter] She’s been called
a “champion noticer.” She’s alert to all the
ways, large and small, that women had been
and, in some cases, continue to be treated unfairly
just because they’re women. As a writer,
a speaker, an activist, she awakened a vast and often
skeptical public to problems like domestic violence, the
lack of affordable child care, unfair hiring practices. And because of her work, across
America and around the world, more women are afforded the
respect and opportunities that they deserve. But she also changed how
women thought about themselves. And Gloria continues
to pour her heart into teaching and mentoring. Her one piece of advice to young
girls is — I love this — “Do not listen to my advice. Listen to the voice inside
you and follow that.” When Patricia Wald’s law firm
asked if she’d come back after having her first child, she said she’d like some time
off to focus on her family — devoted almost 10 years
to raising five children. But Patricia never lost
the itch to practice law. So while her husband
watched the kids at home, she’d hit the
library on weekends. At the age 40, she went
back to the courtroom to show the “young kids”
a thing or two. As the first female judge
on the D.C. Circuit, Patricia was a top candidate
for Attorney General. After leaving the bench, her
idea of retirement was to go to The Hague to preside over
the trials of war criminals. Patricia says she hopes enough
women will become judges that “it’s not worth
celebrating” anymore. But today, we celebrate her. And along with Gloria, she shows
there are all kinds of paths listening to your own voice. We salute communicators who
shined a light on stories no one else was telling. A veteran of World War II and more than a dozen
Pacific battles, Ben Bradlee brought
the same intensity and dedication to journalism. Since joining The Washington
Post 65 years ago, he transformed that newspaper into one of the
finest in the world. With Ben in charge, the Post
published the Pentagon Papers, revealing the true history of America’s
involvement in Vietnam; exposed Watergate; unleashed a new
era of investigative journalism, holding America’s leaders
accountable and reminding us that our freedom as a nation rests on our freedom
of the press. When Ben retired, Senator
Daniel Patrick Moynihan put the admiration
of many into a poem: “O rare Ben Bradlee/His reign has ceased/But his nation
stands/Its strength increased.” And I also indicated to Ben he can pull off
those shirts and I can’t. [laughter] He always looks so cool in them. [laughter] Early in Oprah Winfrey’s career,
her bosses told her she should change
her name to Susie. [laughter] I have to pause here to
say I got the same advice. [laughter and applause] They didn’t say
I should be named “Susie,” but they suggested
I should change my name. [laughter] People can relate to Susie,
that’s what they said. It turned out, surprisingly, that people could relate
to Oprah just fine. In more than 4,500
episodes of her show, her message was
always, “You can.” “You can do and you
can be and you can grow and it can be better.” And she was living proof, rising
from a childhood of poverty and abuse to the pinnacle
of the entertainment universe. But even with 40 Emmys,
the distinction of being the first black
female billionaire, Oprah’s greatest strength
has always been her ability to help us discover
the best in ourselves. Michelle and I count ourselves among her many devoted
fans and friends. As one of those fans wrote, “I didn’t know
I had a light in me until Oprah told
me it was there.” What a great gift. And, finally,
we salute public servants who’ve strengthened our nation. Daniel Inouye was a
humble man and didn’t wear his Medal of Honor very often. Instead, he liked
to wear a pin representing the Good Conduct Medal
he earned as a teenage private. “To behave yourself takes
special effort,” he said, “and I did not want
to dishonor my family.” Danny always honored his
family and his country, even when his country
didn’t always honor him. After being classified
as an “enemy alien,” Danny joined a Japanese
American unit that became one of the most decorated
in World War II. And as the second-longest
serving senator in American history, he showed a generation
of young people — including one kid with a
funny name growing up in Hawaii who noticed
that there was somebody during some of those
hearings in Washington that didn’t look
like everybody else, which meant maybe I had a chance
to do something important, too. He taught all of us that no
matter what you look like or where you come from,
this country has a place for everybody who’s willing
to serve and work hard. A proud Hoosier,
Dick Lugar has served America for more than half a century, from a young Navy lieutenant
to a respected leader in the United States Senate. I’ll always be thankful to
Dick for taking me — a new, junior senator —
under his wing, including travels
together to review some of his visionary work, the destruction
of Cold War arsenals in the former Soviet Union — something that doesn’t
get a lot of public notice, but was absolutely
critical to making us safer in the wake of the Cold War. Now, I should say, traveling
with Dick you get close to unexploded landmines,
mortar shells, test tubes filled with
anthrax and the plague. [laughter] His legacy, though,
is the thousands of missiles and bombers and
submarines and warheads that no longer threaten us because of his
extraordinary work. And our nation and our world are
safer because of this statesman. And in a time of
unrelenting partisanship, Dick Lugar’s decency, his commitment to
bipartisan problem-solving, stand as a model of what
public service ought to be. Now, last, but never least,
we honor a leader who we still remember with
such extraordinary fondness. He still remembers as a child
waving goodbye to his mom — tears in her eyes — as she
went off to nursing school so she could provide
for her family. And I think lifting up families
like his own became the story of Bill Clinton’s life. He remembered what his mom had
to do on behalf of him and he wanted to make sure that he made
life better and easier for so many people all across the
country that were struggling in those same ways and had
those same hopes and dreams. So as a governor,
he transformed education so more kids could
pursue those dreams. As President, he proved
that, with the right choices, you could grow the economy,
lift people out of poverty. We could shrink our deficits and
still invest in our families, our health, our schools,
science, technology. In other words,
we can go farther when we look out for each other. And as we’ve all
seen, as President, he was just getting started. He doesn’t stop. He’s helped lead relief efforts
after the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina,
the Haiti earthquake. His foundation and global
initiative have helped to save or improve the lives of literally hundreds
of millions of people. And, of course, I am most
grateful for his patience during the endless travels
of my Secretary of State. [laughter] So I’m grateful, Bill, as well
for the advice and counsel that you’ve offered me on
and off the golf course. [laughter] And most importantly,
for your lifesaving work around the world, which represents what’s
the very best in America. So thank you so much,
President Clinton. [applause] So these are the recipients of the 2013 Presidential
Medal of Freedom. These are the men and women
who in their extraordinary lives remind us all of the
beauty of the human spirit, the values that define
us as Americans, the potential that lives
inside of all of us. I could not be more happy and
more honored to participate in this ceremony here today. With that, what I would like
to do is invite our honorees to just sit there and
let all of us stand and give you a big
round of applause. [applause] I guess we should actually
give them the medals, though. [laughter] Where are my — here we go. Lee, you want to hit it? Military Aide:
Presidential Medal
of Freedom recipients. Ernie Banks. [applause] With an unmatched enthusiasm
for America’s pastime, Ernie Banks slugged,
sprinted and smiled his way into the record books. Known to fans as “Mr. Cub,” he played an extraordinary 19
seasons with the Chicago Cubs, during which he was named
to 11 All-Star teams, hit over 500 home runs, and won back-to-back
Most Valuable Player honors. Ernie Banks was elected to the
Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, and he will forever be known as
one of the finest power hitters and most dynamic
players of all time. [applause] [applause] Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee. [applause] A titan of journalism,
Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee is one of the most respected
newsmen of his generation. After serving our
nation in World War II, Ben Bradlee went on to
defend liberty here at home. Testing the limits of a free
press during his tenure as executive editor
of The Washington Post, he oversaw coverage of
the Watergate scandal and successfully challenged
the federal government over the right to publish
the Pentagon Papers. His passion for accuracy and
unyielding pursuit of truth continue to set the
standard for journalism. [applause] The Honorable
William J. Clinton. [applause] Among the finest public
servants of our time, President William J. Clinton argued cases for
the people of Arkansas, served his state in
the Governor’s Mansion, and guided our nation
into a new century. As the 42nd President
of the United States, Bill Clinton oversaw an era
of challenge and change, prosperity and progress. His work after leaving
public office continues to reflect his
passionate, unending commitment to improving the lives
and livelihoods of people around the world. In responding to needs
both at home and abroad, and as founder of the
Clinton Foundation, he has shown that through
creative cooperation among women and men of goodwill, we can solve even
the most intractable problems. [applause] Irene Hirano Inouye, accepting
on behalf of her husband, the Honorable Daniel K. Inouye. [applause] A true patriot and
dedicated public servant, Daniel K. Inouye understood
the power of leaders when united in common purpose to
protect and promote the tenets we cherish as Americans. As a member of the revered
442nd Regimental Combat Team, Daniel Inouye helped free Europe from the grasp of tyranny
during World War II, for which he received
the Medal of Honor. Representing the people of
Hawaii from the moment the islands joined
the Union, he never lost sight of the ideals that bind
us across the 50 states. Senator Inouye’s reason and
resolve helped make our country what it is today,
and for that, we honor him. [applause] Dr. Daniel Kahneman. [applause] Daniel Kahneman’s
groundbreaking work earned him a Nobel Prize
in Economic Sciences for his research
developing prospect theory. After escaping from
Nazi-occupied France as a young boy and later joining
the Israel Defense Forces, Dr. Kahneman grew interested
in understanding the origins of people’s beliefs. Combining psychology
and economic analysis, and working alongside
Dr. Amos Tversky, Dr. Kahneman used simple
experiments to demonstrate how people make decisions under
uncertain circumstances, and he forever changed the
way we view human judgment. [applause] The Honorable Richard G. Lugar. [applause] Representing the State of
Indiana for over three decades in the United States
Senate, Richard G. Lugar put country
above party and self to forge bipartisan consensus. Throughout his
time in the Senate, he offered effective
solutions to our national and international problems,
advocating for the control of nuclear arms and other
weapons of mass destruction. Working with Senator Sam Nunn,
Richard Lugar established the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative
Threat Reduction Program, one of our country’s
most successful national security initiatives, helping to sustain American
leadership and engage nations in collaboration after
decades of confrontation. He remains a strong voice
on foreign policy issues, and his informed perspective
will have broad influence for years to come. [applause] Loretta Lynn. [applause] Born a coal miner’s daughter,
Loretta Lynn has followed a bold path to become a legend
in country music. A singer, songwriter,
and author, she has written dozens
of chart-topping songs, released scores of albums,
and won numerous accolades. Breaking barriers in country
music and entertainment, she opened doors for women
not only by winning tremendous achievements,
but also by raising issues few dared to discuss. Fearlessly telling her own
stories with candor and humor, Loretta Lynn has brought
a strong female voice to mainstream music, captured the
emotions of women and men alike, and revealed the common truths
about life as it is lived. [applause] Dr. Mario Molina. [applause] The curiosity and creativity
that inspired Mario Molina to convert his family’s bathroom
into a laboratory as a child have driven him through
decades of scientific research. Born in Mexico, Dr. Molina’s
passion for chemistry brought him to the United States,
where his investigations of chlorofluorocarbons
led to breakthroughs in our understanding of how
they deplete the ozone layer. The impact of his discoveries
extends far beyond his field, affecting environmental policy and fostering
international awareness, as well as earning him the
1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Today, Dr. Molina
remains a global leader, continuing to study air
quality, climate change, and the environment
that connects us all. [applause] Tam O’Shaughnessy accepting
on behalf of her life partner, Dr. Sally K. Ride. [applause] Thirty years ago,
Dr. Sally K. Ride soared into space as the
youngest American and first woman
to wear the Stars and Stripes above Earth’s atmosphere. As an astronaut,
she sought to keep America at the forefront
of space exploration. As a role model,
she fought tirelessly to inspire young people — especially girls — to become scientifically
literate and to pursue careers in science, technology,
engineering, and math. At the end of her life, she
became an inspiration for those battling pancreatic cancer, and
for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The tale of a quiet hero, Sally
Ride’s story demonstrates that the sky is no limit
for those who dream of reaching for the stars. [applause] Walter Naegle accepting
on behalf of his partner, Bayard Rustin. [applause] Bayard Rustin was a giant in the
American Civil Rights Movement. Openly gay at a time when many
had to hide who they loved, his unwavering belief that
we are all equal members of a “single human family” took him
from his first Freedom Ride to the lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender rights movement. Thanks to his unparalleled
skills as an organizer, progress that once seemed
impossible appears, in retrospect,
to have been inevitable. Fifty years after the March
on Washington he organized, America honors Bayard Rustin as
one of its greatest architects for social change
and a fearless advocate for
its most vulnerable citizens. [applause] Arturo Sandoval. [applause] Arturo Sandoval is one of the
world’s finest jazz musicians. Born into poverty in Cuba and
held back by his government, he risked everything to share
his gifts with the world — eventually defecting with
help from Dizzy Gillespie, his mentor and friend. In the decades since, this
astonishing trumpeter, pianist, and composer
has inspired audiences in every corner of the world and awakened a new generation
of great performers. He remains one of
the best ever to play. [applause] Linnea Smith, accepting
on behalf of her husband, Dean E. Smith. [applause] Dean E. Smith spent 36 seasons taking college basketball
to new heights. As head coach at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he led
his team to 11 Final Fours, two national titles,
and 879 victories, retiring as the winningest men’s college basketball
coach in history. Dean Smith brought
the same commitment to supporting his
players off the court. He helped more than 96 percent
of his lettermen graduate. And in an era of deep division, he taught players
to overcome bigotry with courage and compassion. He will forever stand
as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history. [applause] Gloria Steinem. [applause] A trailblazing writer
and feminist organizer, Gloria Steinem has been at
the forefront of the fight for equality and social justice
for more than four decades. Instrumental to a broad range
of initiatives and issues, from establishing Ms. Magazine and Take Our
Daughters to Work Day, to pushing for women’s
self-empowerment and an end to sex trafficking. She has promoted lasting
political and social change in America and abroad. Through her reporting
and speaking, she has shaped debates on the
intersection of sex and race, brought critical problems
to national attention, and forged new opportunities
for women in media. Gloria Steinem continues to move
us all to take up the cause of reaching for a
more just tomorrow. [applause] Reverend C.T. Vivian. [applause] Equipped only with courage and
an overwhelming commitment to social justice,
the Reverend C.T. Vivian was a stalwart activist on the
march toward racial equality. Whether at a lunch
counter, on a Freedom Ride, or behind the bars
of a prison cell, he was unafraid to take
bold action in the face of fierce resistance. By pushing change through
nonviolent demonstration and advocacy,
C.T. Vivian established and led numerous organizations
to support underserved individuals
and communities. His legacy of combating
injustice will shine as an example
for generations to come. [applause] Patricia McGowan Wald. [applause] Patricia McGowan Wald made
history as the first woman appointed to the United States
Court of Appeals for the District
of Columbia Circuit. Rising to Chief
Judge of the Court, she always strove to
better understand the law and fairly apply it. After leaving federal service,
Judge Wald helped institute standards for justice
and the rule of law at the International
Criminal Tribunal for the Former
Yugoslavia in The Hague. Hailed as a model judge,
she laid a foundation for countless women within
the legal profession and helped unveil
the humanity within the law. [applause] Oprah G. Winfrey. [applause] Oprah G. Winfrey is
a global media icon. When she launched The
Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986, there were few women —
and even fewer women of color — with a national platform
to discuss the issues and events shaping our times. But over the
25 years that followed, Oprah Winfrey’s
innate gift for tapping into our most fervent hopes
and deepest fears drew millions of viewers across
every background, making her show
the highest-rated talk show in television history. Off screen, Oprah Winfrey
has used her influence to support underserved
communities and to lift up the lives of young people
— especially young women — around the world. In her story, we are reminded
that no dream can be deferred when we refuse to let life’s
obstacles keep us down. [applause] The President:
The Medal of Freedom
honorees — please. [applause] Well, that concludes the formal
part of today’s ceremony. I want to thank all
of you for being here. Obviously,
we are deeply indebted to those who we
honor here today. And we’re going
to have an opportunity to take some pictures
with the honorees and their family members. The rest of you, I understand
the food here is pretty good. [laughter] So I hope you enjoy
the reception, and I hope we carry away from
this a reminder of what JFK understood to be the essence
of the American spirit — that it’s represented here. And some of us may
be less talented, but we all
have the opportunity to serve and to open people’s
hearts and minds in our smaller orbits. So I hope everybody has been
as inspired, as I have been, participating and being
with these people here today. Thank you very much, everybody. [applause]

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