Presidential Medal of Freedom 2013 Awards Ceremony


THE PRESIDENT: Good morning! (Applause.) 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.
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.) 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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