Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Good afternoon, and thank you all for coming here. You know, maybe it'll sound a little like bragging, but I have to tell you, I really have a great job. [Laughter] And one of the reasons this is such a great job is that I get to preside at wonderful occasions like this one. We're all here today to present the Medal of Freedom to eight remarkable Americans. It's the highest civilian honor this nation can bestow, and those who are so honored have spent much of their lives advancing the cause of freedom around the world.
Like those who have come before, today's recipients are artists and statesmen, philosophers and academics, and people of action and profound introspection. Your lives and careers testify to a central truth of humanity: It is better to give than to receive. You've all given—given of your talent and your energy and your resources—because you know that the only way to fight injustice and promote freedom is to speak a resounding "no" to the forces of international complacency and a resounding "yes" to those whose souls thirst after the cool waters of liberty.
What your example—and the examples of Mac Baldrige and J. Willard Marriott, who are watching us from a better place—teach all of us is that fighting for what you believe in is not only good; it's fun. It's a pleasant experience to know you've done some good, maybe the most enjoyable experience we all have. You are all possessed of the good cheer and clear consciences of those who know they've done all they can for a cause they believe in.
The reward for good deeds does not only come in the hereafter, it comes every day in the knowledge that the world is maybe a little better because of the things you've done in your life. Well, we can't hope to top a feeling like that, but we do aim to add a little pleasure with the awards we give out today. And so, without further ado, I will now read the citations for the eight Medal of Freedom recipients of 1988. And as I start to read, you'll please come to the platform.
This is the citation for Malcolm Baldrige:
Cowboy, business executive, political activist, Cabinet Secretary—Mac Baldrige was all of these and more. To every task and role, he brought the strength of his integrity and the power of his vision. In serving his country, he became an architect of our international economic policy. And yet, though he moved with Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Kings, he was always happiest with the kind of straight-talking cowboys who elected him to the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Malcolm Baldrige had uncommon accomplishments and character. He was a true embodiment of the American spirit.
And here to accept is Mrs. Baldrige.
And the citation for Pearl Bailey Bellson: Pearl? As a girl, Pearl Bailey began singing in her father's church in Virginia and kept singing all the way to Broadway and into America's heart. Among the preeminent American entertainers of this century, she has dazzled audiences all over the world. She has also served the Nation as a Special Adviser to the United States Mission to the United Nations. And America loves Pearl Bailey, for her songs and for her soul.
The citation for Irving Brown:
As the European representative of the American Federation of Labor in the late 1940's, Irving Brown played a crucial role in breaking the hold of international communism over postwar Western Europe. By doing so, he can truly be called one of the architects of Western democracy. He has shunned publicity, believing the cause of freedom is far more important than the pleasure of fame. But his modesty cannot obscure the size of his accomplishments, and they have earned Irving Brown the gratitude of his country.
And accepting this award will be his son, Robert.
And this citation for Warren E. Burger:
As teacher, lawyer, Assistant Attorney General of the United States, and judge, Warren Burger proved his abiding love of the law. For 17 years, he served in the highest post on the highest court in the land as the 15th Chief Justice of the United States. Chief Justice Burger stepped down from the Supreme Court to lead our country in a bicentennial celebration of the Constitution—one more act of devotion and distinction by Warren Earl Burger to the Republic he loves and serves so well.
The citation for Milton Friedman:
Teacher, scholar, and theorist—Milton Friedman restored common sense to the world of economics. A winner of the Nobel Prize, Milton Friedman's technical mastery of his profession is unchallenged. But more central to his work is its moral component: an idea of human freedom in which man's economic rights are as vital as his civil and human rights. It is for his celebration of the human spirit as well as the brilliance of his mind that I bestow upon Milton Friedman the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
And the citation for Jean Faircloth MacArthur:
Vibrant, charming, brave, and ever loyal as she always puts it—"to my General," Jean MacArthur has witnessed the great cataclysms of our time, survived war and peace, conquered tragedy, and known triumph. Whether on a PT boat evading enemy ships in the South China Sea or being welcomed home by all Americans in 1951, Jean MacArthur was and is a shining example—a woman of substance and character; a loyal wife and mother; and like her General, a patriot selfless in the service of our country and the cause of freedom.
Citation for J. Willard Marriott:
The son of a humble Utah sheep rancher, J. Willard Marriott turned a small root beer stand in the Nation's Capital into one of America's largest and most successful businesses. Known for his vision, ingenuity, and hard work, J. Willard Marriott will also be remembered as a man of devotion to family, a leader in his church, a respected voice in the halls of government, and as a man who in his life and career brought honor to America.
And his wife, Alice, is accepting.
A citation for David Packard:
Accomplished businessman and skillful manager, noted philanthropist and public servant of the highest integrity—David Packard has had a legendary life and career. Dedicated to furthering the pursuit of scientific, technological, and human progress, devoted to his country and the cause of keeping her strong in a dangerous world, David Packard has served the American people effectively, generously, and proudly.
These are the eight that we honor, and I'm very proud to have been able to participate in this with these wonderful people.
Note: The President spoke at 1:23 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Prior to his remarks, the President hosted a luncheon in the Residence for the recipients.
Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/253612