Ladies and gentlemen:
I have just talked on the phone with the three astronauts on the ship. And I have told them that I would like to present the Medal of Freedom to them in Hawaii tomorrow.
We will leave here in the morning, going first to Houston, where we will pick up the two wives, and then go on to Hawaii where the Medal of Freedom will be presented in a ceremony tomorrow at approximately 5:00.
I also want to say at this time that reactions, of course, to what has happened have been pouring into the White House. I have talked to the leaders of both the House and the Senate, Republican and Democrat, and to several other leaders in the country who have been calling in.
There are no adjectives that can be added at this time. I will only put it in quite personal terms. I thought that the most exciting day of my life was the day I was elected President of the United States. And then I thought perhaps next to that was the day that Apollo 11 completed its flight and I met it when it came down in the sea in the Pacific. But there is no question in my mind that for me, personally, this is the most exciting, the most meaningful day that I have ever experienced.
I feel that what these men have done has been a great inspiration to all of us. I think also what the men on the ground have done is an inspiration to us. How men react in adversity determines their true greatness, and these men have demonstrated that the American character is sound and strong and capable of taking a very difficult situation and turning it into really a very successful venture.
Finally, in recognition, also, of the men on the ground, I am going to present the Medal of Freedom tomorrow in Houston when we stop there, to the Apollo 13 crew on the ground who have made these very difficult decisions on the spot, decisions that had to be fight. They couldn't miss even a little bit without risking the lives of these men.
This is a superb achievement. It is one the whole Nation is proud of, and I am very proud to represent the American people in presenting the Medal of Freedom to those who participated, the hundreds, the thousands, in making this possible, and also to the three men who have now returned safely to earth.