George W. Bush photo

Remarks on Presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom To Secretary General Lord Robertson of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

November 12, 2003

Good morning. I'm proud to welcome members of the diplomatic corps and my administration, and of course Lord Robertson, the Secretary General of NATO, to the White House. I've been honored to host Lord Robertson here at the White House many times over the past 3 years. I'm grateful that he's come once more before he leaves his post.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is our Nation's highest civil award, given to individuals of exceptional merit and integrity. For Lord Robertson, it is a fitting tribute to his long and distinguished career of service to his nation, to our alliance, and to the world.

NATO is the most successful alliance in history, and Lord Robertson has led NATO during some of the most challenging years of its history. Not long ago, some questioned whether NATO could or should survive the end of the cold war. Then the Alliance proved its enduring worth by stopping ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and keeping the peace in Kosovo. Some wonder whether NATO could adopt to the new threats of the 21st century. Today, NATO forces are fighting terror in Afghanistan and supporting a multinational division in Iraq.

Today in Iraq, a member of NATO, Italy, lost some proud sons in the service of freedom and peace. The United States sends our deepest condolences to the families who died—of the soldiers and policemen who died. We appreciate their sacrifices. I appreciate the steadfast leadership of Prime Minister Berlusconi, who refuses to yield in the face of terror.

Lord Robertson is a patient leader. He's a determined leader, and over the past 4 years his skills and talents have made many achievements possible. Lord Robertson oversaw the largest expansion in NATO's history, a major milestone in the fulfillment of our shared vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. He helped open a new chapter in NATO's relationship with Russia through the creation of the Russian-NATO Council. He ensured that NATO would honor its commitment to come to the defense of fellow NATO member Turkey. And he pursued an ambitious agenda of transformation to make NATO forces lighter, faster, and better able to respond to complex and ever-changing threats.

America owes a special debt to Lord Robertson. When our Nation was attacked on September the 11th, 2001, Lord Robertson led NATO to invoke, for the first time in its history, Article V, which states that an attack against one NATO Ally is an attack against all. Americans will never forget that vital support from our closest allies on one of the darkest days of our history.

Our alliance continues to face and to meet the threats to peace and prosperity and freedom. Lord Robertson's leadership has been crucial to meeting these challenges. His tenure at the helm of this institution shows the power of collective defense when free nations act to serve great causes and free nations act to produce results. Lord Robertson's efforts and vision leave behind a legacy of effective multilateralism that will benefit this Alliance for years to come.

When NATO was founded over half a century ago, President Harry Truman said this: "By this treaty, we are not only seeking to establish freedom, freedom from aggression and from the use of force in the North Atlantic community, but we're also actively striving to promote and preserve peace throughout the world." We honor Lord Robertson here today for his dedication to the high ideals of the NATO Alliance, the promise of peace throughout the world.

I'm going to ask the military aide now to read the honor. It is my honor to welcome this good man, to present the Medal of Freedom to the Right Honorable Lord Robertson of Port Ellen.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:54 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of Secretary General Lord Robertson.

George W. Bush, Remarks on Presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom To Secretary General Lord Robertson of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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