Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at a Ceremony Honoring Roberto Clemente.

May 14, 1973

Ladies and gentlemen:

We are here for the presentation of the first Presidential Citizens Medal, and I am very honored and this office is honored that that first medal--which we know will be awarded in the future to distinguished Americans for their service--that first medal goes to Roberto Clemente.

I would like to read the citation, because it is better than any speech I could make, I think, with regard to Roberto Clemente:

Citizens Medal citation, Roberto Clemente:

"All who saw Roberto Clemente in action, whether on the diamond or on the front lines of charitable endeavor, are richer for the experience. He stands with that handful of men whose brilliance has transformed the game of baseball into a showcase of skill and spirit, giving universal delight and inspiration. More than that, his selfless dedication to helping those with two strikes against them in life blessed thousands and set an example for millions. As long as athletes and humanitarians are honored, Roberto Clemente's memory will live; as long as Citizens Medals are presented, each will mean a little more because this first one went to him."

[At this point, the President presented the medal to Mrs. Roberto Clemente. He then resumed speaking.]

Let me say our only regret is that he isn't here--but he's really here--I think he is here in this room. Don't you think so? I think he would be proud to be the first American to get this medal, too, the first one.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, we will have another ceremony, the signing of a special bill setting up a commemorative medal. The bill was introduced in the House by Congressman Moorhead, who represents that district, and in the Senate by Senator Scott.

It was a bill which received, as you might imagine, overwhelming and unanimous support in both the House and the Senate. Senator Schweiker here was also a cosponsor of the bill, from Pennsylvania. I am sure that there would be 100 Members from the Senate down here and all 435 Members of the House, on this occasion, if we had that much room.

Mrs. Clemente, if you will step between these gentlemen, and I will sit down and sign the bill. I think while the custom usually is to give the first pen to the sponsoring Congressmen or Senators, that the sponsoring Congressmen and Senators would want me to present this pen to Mrs. Clemente. And on that also, we will have souvenir pens for everybody attending this ceremony, the Governor and all the rest.

Senator Scott, you are recognized for the purpose of responding for the whole group.

SENATOR HUGH SCOTT. Two minutes? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. No, you can take 2 minutes and yield 2 minutes, if you like, to Senator Schweiker or Congressman Moorhead.

SENATOR SCOTT. Mr. President, I think the story of Roberto Clemente is too well known for repeating, and he died, as we all know, on a compassionate errand. In that errand, for Nicaraguan relief, he had raised, himself, $150,000 and 26 tons of clothing. And it should be noted that the first contribution to that fund came from the President and Mrs. Nixon, in addition to which, very near to his heart, was the Puerto Rican sports center to which he gave much time and thought, because he believed that if kids didn't particularly like one sport while another one appealed to them, in one way or another they would get more active and learn what is to be gained from participating in that sport. So that we all are very proud of him. We all miss him and I am glad Mrs. Clemente is here, and some of his teammates.

And, if I may, I will yield to Senator Schweiker and then to Congressman Moorhead.

THE PRESIDENT. Senator Schweiker.

SENATOR RICHARD S. SCHWEIKER. I would like to strongly say that we are not only proud of him as a Pennsylvanian, but proud of everybody who joined in his efforts, and I am delighted to be a small part of this today.

THE PRESIDENT. Congressman.


THE PRESIDENT. Under the rules of the House, you can have 5 minutes.

CONGRESSMAN MOORHEAD. I never seem to get those 5 minutes.

THE PRESIDENT. It is awfully hard. One minute then, or more.

CONGRESSMAN MOORHEAD. Just let me say that not only is Roberto Clemente the number one citizen of my city of Pittsburgh, but also of Puerto Rico and, I believe, as a result of his activities, of the entire world.

COMMISSIONER JAIME BENITEZ. Would the gentleman yield?

CONGRESSMAN MOOREHEAD. I yield to the Delegate from Puerto Rico.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, Mr. Delegate.

COMMISSIONER BENITEZ. I would like to say, Mr. President, on behalf of Puerto Rico, we are very honored by this occasion. We knew Clemente well and loved him as he has been loved by all of you, and we are particularly thankful to you for your great interest.

THE PRESIDENT. As you all know, ladies and gentlemen, when they do refer to the international character of this event, it should be noted that not only the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is to benefit from it, the city of Pittsburgh, in many respects, since Roberto Clemente grew to fame in that city, but Managua in Nicaragua, one of our friends to the south. And I think that is the way Roberto Clemente would have wanted it. And we hope, as a result of the sale of these medals, that all three of those countries, and those cities, particularly, will benefit.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:05 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.

As enacted, the bill (H.R. 3841) is Public Law 93--33 (87 Stat. 71), which authorized the striking of one gold commemorative medal and not more than 200,000 duplicates. Profits from the sale of the medals would be contributed to the Roberto Clemente Memorial Fund in Pittsburgh, Pa.

On the same day, the White House released a fact sheet which included information on the Presidential Citizens Medal and biographical data on Mr. Clemente.

Richard Nixon, Remarks at a Ceremony Honoring Roberto Clemente. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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