OTHER peoples in other lands have marked their history through the years by moments of glory and war, and moments of greatness in power over empires and dominions.
Our experience in our own history has been quite different. Our glory is peace, not war. Our greatness is in people, not power. Our genius for 188 years has been the excellence of individuals.
The history of America is a history of outstanding achievement by outstanding individuals-inventors and enterprisers, thinkers and doers, creators and constructors.
Our society today is a changing society, changing from rural values to urban values, from manual labor to mental labor, from scarcity to abundance, from provincial horizons to cosmopolitan horizons. Yet, as our society changes, the value of the individual is unchanging. Our trust must and does continue to rest upon the individual who envisions more, aspires to more, and who achieves more for all of us.
What America is to be, America will be, because of our trust in and of the individual and of his capacity for excellence. Only those who doubt the individual can be dubious of America's survival and success in this century of contest. This belief is mine. It was this conviction that led President Kennedy to the establishment of the Medal of Freedom as our highest civilian honor for outstanding individuals--citizens who share an extra measure of individual excellence in the mainstream of our well-being and our advancement. On the talents of such citizens rests the future of our American civilization, for it is from the genius of the few that we enrich the greatness of the many.
All Americans are proud, as I am proud, to salute today the great Americans here before me. Their lives and their works have made freedom stronger for all of us in our time.
[The President spoke at the close of the presentation ceremony. Under Secretary of State George W. Ball, Chairman of the Distinguished Civilian Service Awards Board, introduced the recipients, and the President presented the awards and read the citations, as follows:]
Mr. Ball: Mr. Dean Acheson.
THE PRESIDENT. An architect of the defense and growth of a flourishing Atlantic community, his moral resolve and intellectual grasp have placed all free men in his debt.
Mr. Ball: Dr. Detlev W. Bronk.
THE PRESIDENT. Scientist and leader of scholars, his vision and untiring efforts have advanced science education and helped forge an enduring link between Government and the scientific community.
Mr. Ball: Mr. Aaron Copland.
THE PRESIDENT. Masterful composer and gifted teacher, his music echoes our American experience and speaks expressively to an international audience.
Mr. Ball: Mr. Willem de Kooning.
THE PRESIDENT. Artist and teacher, he has adventured into a new range of artistic vision and opened bold pathways to our experience of the world.
Mr. Ball: Mr. Walter Disney.
THE PRESIDENT. Artist and impresario, in the course of entertaining an age, he has created an American folklore.
Mr. Ball: Prof. J. Frank Dobie.
THE PRESIDENT. Folklorist, teacher, writer, he has recaptured the treasure of our rich regional heritage in the Southwest from the conquistadores to the cowboys.
Mr. Ball: Dr. Lena F. Edwards.
THE PRESIDENT. Physician and humanitarian, she has applied her medical skills and compassionate understanding to the women and children of our migratory work force.
Mr. Ball: Mr. Thomas Stearns Eliot.
THE PRESIDENT. Poet and ...
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