|The American Presidency Project|
|• Jimmy Carter|
|Presidential Medal of Freedom Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony.|
|June 9, 1980|
THE PRESIDENT. It's a great privilege for us to have had Charles Brown Fisk play this morning. He's one of the winners of the Bach International Competition, the first American winner, I believe. He was playing the Introductory Movement of Bach's Italian Concerto for us. This is the world's first major competition devoted exclusively to Bach. And since it was begun in 1959, it has encouraged a whole generation of musicians to include some of the most challenging and exciting music in their own repertoires. We're very deeply grateful to you for beginning this program with such an excellent performance. Thank you very much.
As I'm sure you know, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award given in this Nation. The medal was first presented by President Truman during the time of World War II to honor especially meritorious nonmilitary contributions to national security and to world peace. Since I've been in office, I've given the Medal of Freedom to three people: Justice Arthur Goldberg, to Jonas Salk, and to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Over the years the qualifications were broadened to include cultural and other significant public and private endeavors. Past recipients have included our greatest composers, writers, scientists, performing and visual artists, religious and moral leaders of our time, appropriately covering the wide range of activities that a free people rightly consider to be invaluable contributions to the quality of our lives and to the peace and the cultural improvement of the lives of people everywhere.
The men and women to be honored here today reflect that broad range to an extraordinary degree: an admiral and an actor, who both came to symbolize the spirit of American individualism; a biologist and a bird-watcher; a dramatist and a dancer; a photographer, a poet, and a President; a coloratura and a civil rights leader; and a Senator from Minnesota whose enthusiasm and whose compassion inspired a generation of Americans. Their widely differing styles and careers are united by just one thing—their passionate commitment to their own convictions and the compatibility of their convictions with the enhancement of the quality of American life.
They have enriched our lives by broadening the scope of our vision and by deepening our understanding. They have, in their varying ways, aroused our rightful indignation at injustice and intolerance, at indifference and ignorance. They've made us look up to the birds in flight, down into the depths of ocean, and inward to probe the cruelty and the comedy, the courage and the compassion of the human heart. The rest of us have not always come up to the high standards that they've set for us. But because of them, our Nation is a little more secure, a little less careless, a little more literate, a little more loving than we might otherwise have been.
Now I'd like to read the names and the citations in alphabetical order, and as I read each citation, I would like to ask the honoree to come forward.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM TO ANSEL ADAMS
At one with the power of the American landscape, and renowned for the patient skill and timeless beauty of his work, photographer Ansel Adams has been visionary in his efforts to preserve this country's wild and scenic areas, both in film and on Earth. Drawn to the beauty of nature's monuments, he is regarded by environmentalists as a monument himself, and by photographers as a national institution. It is through his foresight and fortitude that so much of America has been saved for future Americans.]
I'm very thankful that Ansel Adams is my personal friend. I have one of his beautiful photographs in my office. I enjoy it every day, and it reminds me and others who visit me there not only of the beauty of our country in the past and at the present time but the necessity for preserving that beauty for the future.
Although Ansel Adams and many others are presently responsible for the awareness of American people about the quality of our lives and our environment, perhaps the most significant single contribution was made by the next honoree, Rachel Carson. I'd like to ask her nephew and adopted son to come forward as I present this award to her.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM TO RACHEL CARSON
Never silent herself in the face of destructive trends, Rachel Carson fed a spring of awareness across America and beyond. A biologist with a gentle, clear voice, she welcomed her audiences to her love of the sea, while with an equally clear determined voice she warned Americans of the dangers human beings themselves pose for their own environment. Always concerned, always eloquent, she created a tide of environmental consciousness that has not ebbed.]
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM TO LUCIA CHASE
Ballerina Lucia Chase has been a one-woman show, devoting her lifework to sustaining the vitality of American dance. A dancer and ballet director both, she has interpreted roles and created them, and in every instance she has served to inspire the young, entertain the old and win for American talent its rightful place on the international stage of dance.]
On occasion in our lives, a certain person touches the heartstrings of our existence and inspires us all in a special, deeply human way. I'd now like to ask the wife of Hubert Humphrey to come forward. [Applause] If you'll permit me an aside, I think the applause is not only for the honoree but for Muriel Humphrey as well, who shared so much.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM TO HUBERT H. HUMPHREY
Hubert H. Humphrey awed us with the scope of his knowledge; he inspired us with the depth of his sympathy; he moved us with his passion for social justice; he delighted us with his joyous love of his fellow human beings. He brought honor and enthusiasm to everything he did. He ennobled the political process.]
One of the most exciting days of my Presidency was a year or so ago when we had this entire lawn almost filled with delighted Greek Americans who share with me and others the admiration that we all feel for the next honoree. I'd like to ask Archbishop Iakovos to come forward.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM TO ARCHBISHOP IAKOVOS
Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos has long put into practice what he has preached. As a progressive religious leader concerned with human rights and the ecumenical movement, he has marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and has met with the Pope. As the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America concerned with his congregation, he has given guidance to millions.]
It's hard to think of words adequate to describe the profound impact made on our Nation and the world by this next honoree, a man who was big in every way, a great influence, great heart, who literally transformed the attitudes of our country. I would like to ask Lady Bird Johnson to come forward to accept the award for Lyndon Baines Johnson.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL
Lyndon B. Johnson cared deeply about our country, its citizens, and the condition of their lives. He knew well how to translate concern into action, and action into a national agenda. He did more than any American of his time to break the chains of injustice, illiteracy, poverty and sickness. We are a greater society because President Johnson lived among us and worked for us.]
It may well be that Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Baines Johnson would not have been so notably acclaimed had it not been for the next gentleman who will be honored. I'd like to ask Clarence Mitchell, Jr., to come forward.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM TO CLARENCE M. MITCHELL, JR.
Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., for decades waged in the halls of Congress a stubborn, resourceful and historic campaign for social justice. The integrity of this "101st Senator" earned him the respect of friends and adversaries alike. His brilliant advocacy helped translate into law the protests and aspirations of millions consigned too long to second-class citizenship. The hard-won fruits of his labors have made America a better and stronger nation.]
The combination of the love of our natural heritage and the excitement and pleasure that can be given to other Americans who can't share on a full-time basis the delights of his own existence make this next award especially significant. I'd like to ask Roger Tory Peterson to come forward.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM TO ROGER TORY PETERSON
Roger Tory Peterson has achieved distinction as a consummate painter, writer, teacher and scientist. As an unabashed lover of birds and a distinguished ornithologist, he has furthered the study, appreciation and protection of birds the world over. And he has done more. He has impassioned thousands of Americans, and has awakened in millions across this land, a fondness for nature's other two-legged creatures.]
I've said many times to a close circle of friends that probably with the exception of my own father, no other person has had such a profound impact on my life than has the next honoree. A person who is personally responsible for the first full utilization of atomic power not for destruction but for peace, I would like to ask Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, U.S. Navy, to come forward.
This is one of the few times when Admiral Rickover has walked toward me that I didn't tremble in my shoes. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM TO ADMIRAL HYMAN RICKOVER
Admiral Rickover exemplifies the American belief that freedom and responsibility are inseparable; the duty of the citizen is to contribute his best to the Nation's welfare and defense. His successful development and application of nuclear propulsion revolutionized naval warfare. The performance of our nuclear fleet over more than a quarter of a century is proof of his well-known commitment to excellence. This Nation's first civilian electric utility reactor, which he designed and developed in the 1950's is the technological forerunner of nearly all utility reactors subsequently built in this country. A keen observer of mankind, he has not hesitated to measure publicly the actions of government, industry, the professions, and our schools against the standard of responsibility.]
Not all of us have the benefit of world renown and excellence in our chosen profession, the ability to inspire others, and personal beauty as well, but the next honoree who means so much to America personifies all those characteristics. I'd like to ask Beverly Sills Greenough to come forward.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM TO BEVERLY SILLS GREENOUGH
Beverly Sills has captured with her voice every note of human feeling, and with her superb dramatic talent projected them out to us with ringing clarity. Through her many and diverse roles, she tells and retells opera's intensely heightened stories of human folly, goodness, pain and triumph. She has touched and delighted audiences throughout the world as a performer, as a recording artist, and now as a producer—and of all her arts she is a master.]
On rare occasions, a person who has extraordinary talent finds that talent to be repeated in various aspects of human endeavor. Our next honoree certainly is a person of that kind who has inspired a Nation to assess very closely a standard of excellence which few others can equal. I would like to ask Robert Penn Warren to come forward for his citation.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM TO ROBERT PENN WARREN
Robert Penn Warren excels as a poet, novelist, literary critic, and teacher. His textbooks, written with Cleanth Brooks, transformed the teaching of literature and writing in the United States. As a literary craftsman and a committed humanist Robert Penn Warren has undertaken a lifelong quest for self-knowledge and moral vision which has established him as one of America's greatest men of letters of the 20th Century.]
All of these are famous people, they're well-known throughout the world. But even including Vice Presidents and Presidents, noted singers and dancers and writers and ornithologists, I think the next would be the most famous of us all, including the one who reads this citation. I would like to ask Mrs. John Wayne to come forward.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM TO JOHN WAYNE
John Wayne was both an example and a symbol of true American grit and determination. Through his countless film roles, "The Duke" still leads millions on heroic adventures on behalf of fairness and justice. He embodies the enduring American values of individualism, relentless bravery and perseverance in pursuit of what is right. He was the quintessential patriot, and will especially be remembered whenever our Nation faces a challenge calling for steadfast courage.]
Sometimes a writer has such a special sensitivity about the human heart and the human spirit that their works literally burst forward not only with entertainment but with human comedy and the ability to epitomize what a character means, not only to those considered in the novel or short story but to us as well. I would now like to ask one of my favorite authors to come forward, Eudora Welty.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL
Eudora Welty's fiction, with its strong sense of place and triumphant comic spirit, illuminates the human condition. Her photographs of the South during the Depression reveal a rare artistic sensibility. Her critical essays explore mind and heart, literary and oral tradition, language and life with unsurpassed beauty. Through photography, essays and fiction, Eudora Welty has enriched our lives and shown us the wonder of human experience.]
A few days ago someone accused me of being prejudiced toward the South in the selection of these honorees. That is not the case, although Robert Penn Warren and Eudora Welty and the next honoree happen to be from the South. I'm very delighted to read the citation for this last of our group of honorees. His work is truly remarkable. The breadth of it is astonishing, and the enjoyment that people have derived during his own lifetime—and I'm sure for many decades or centuries in the future—will indeed be a reminder of what America is in its challenge, in its failures, in its dreams and hopes for the future. I'd like to ask Tennessee Williams to come forward.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AWARDS THIS PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM TO TENNESSEE WILLIAMS
Tennessee Williams has shaped the history of modern American theater through plays which range from passionate tragedies to lyrical comedies. His masterpieces dramatize the eternal conflicts between body and soul, youth and death, love and despair through the unity of reality and poetry. Tennessee Williams shows us that the truly heroic in life or art is human compassion.]
I'd like to ask all of the honorees to come forward maybe for a photograph together with me. And, Rosalynn, would you join us? And then Rosalynn will have a special invitation to give you all.
MRS. CARTER. I want to congratulate all of these honorees and thank them for their great contributions to our country and to the world. I'm very pleased that you could all join us this morning for the ceremony, and now I want to invite everyone to come inside and have lunch. Thank you.
|Citation: Jimmy Carter: "Presidential Medal of Freedom Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony. ", June 9, 1980. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=45389.|
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