Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Presentation of the 1964 Presidential Medal of Freedom Awards.

September 14, 1964

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 critic, he has fused intelligence and imagination, tradition and innovation, bringing to the world a new sense of the possibilities for order in a revolutionary time.

Mr. Ball: Dr. John W. Gardner.

THE PRESIDENT. Guardian and critic of American education, he has inspired our schools and colleges toward his own goal of increasing excellence.

Mr. Ball: The Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh.

THE PRESIDENT. Educator and humanitarian, he has inspired a generation of students and given of his wisdom in the struggle for the rights of man.

Mr. Ball: Mr. Clarence L. Johnson.

THE PRESIDENT. Aeronautical engineer, his genius for conceiving unique airframes and his technical management skills contribute mightily to the Nation's security by creating aircraft of daring design with unmatched rapidity and effectiveness.

Mr. Ball: Mr. Frederick Kappel.

THE PRESIDENT. A creative leader of business, he synthesizes the skills of management with a farsighted appreciation of how technology and communications may better serve our country.

Mr. Ball: Miss Helen Keller.

THE PRESIDENT. An example of courage to all mankind, she has devoted her life to illuminating the dark world of the blind and the handicapped.

Mr. Ball: Mr. John L. Lewis.

THE PRESIDENT. Eloquent spokesman of labor, he has given voice to. the aspirations of the industrial workers of the country and led the cause of free trade unions within a healthy system of free enterprise.

Mr. Ball: Mr. Walter Lippmann.

THE PRESIDENT. Profound interpreter of his country and the affairs of the world, he has enlarged the horizons of public thinking for more than five decades through the power of measured reason and detached perspective.

Mr. Ball: Mr. Alfred Lunt and Miss Lynn Fontainne.

THE PRESIDENT. A luminous partnership of artistic talents and personal devotion they have brilliantly enlivened and enriched the American stage.

Mr. Ball: Mr. Ralph McGill.

THE PRESIDENT. Editor and journalist, he has courageously sounded the voice of reason, moderation, and progress during a period of contemporary revolution.

Mr. Ball: Prof. Samuel Eliot Morison.

THE PRESIDENT. Scholar and sailor, this amphibious historian has combined a life of action and literary craftsmanship to lead two generations of Americans on countless voyages of discovery.

Mr. Ball: Mr. Lewis Mumford.

THE PRESIDENT. In the name of sanity, he has constantly worked to rescue and extend the qualities of urban life that will preserve and stimulate the humane spirit of western civilization.

Mr. Ball: Mr. Edward R. Murrow.

THE PRESIDENT. A pioneer in education through mass communication, he has brought to all his endeavors the conviction that truth and personal integrity are the ultimate persuaders of men and nations.

Mr. Ball: Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr.

THE PRESIDENT. Theologian, teacher, social philosopher, he has invoked the ancient insights of Christianity to illuminate the experience and fortify the will of the modern age.

Mr. Ball: Miss Leontyne Price.

THE PRESIDENT. A voice of stirring power and rare beauty, her singing has brought delight to her land and to all those who treasure musical values.

Mr. Ball: Mr. A. Philip Randolph.

THE PRESIDENT. Trade unionist and citizen, through four decades of challenge and achievement he has led his people and his nation in the great forward march of freedom.

Mr. Ball: Mr. Carl Sandburg.

THE PRESIDENT. Son Of the prairie, he has helped the Nation and the world to comprehend and share in the great affirmation of American life, asserting always, and in the face of disaster no less than triumph, The People.

Mr. Ball: Mr. John Steinbeck.

THE PRESIDENT. A writer of worldwide influence, he has helped America to understand herself by finding universal themes in the experience of men and women everywhere.

Mr. Ball: Dr. Helen B. Taussig.

THE PRESIDENT. Physician, physiologist, and embryologist, her fundamental concepts have made possible the modern surgery of the heart which enables countless children to lead productive lives.

Mr. Ball: Mr. Carl Vinson.

THE PRESIDENT. Master legislative captain, helmsman, and navigator, his fixed star has always been the national interest.

Mr. Ball: Mr. Thomas J. Watson, Jr.

THE PRESIDENT. A business statesman who combined distinction in private life with a cheerful acceptance of countless public duties placed on him by a grateful government.

Mr. Ball: Dr. Paul Dudley White.

THE PRESIDENT. Physician, humanist, and teacher, he has led the way toward a greater knowledge of heart disease and the promotion of international understanding through scientific medicine.

Note: The ceremony was held at noon in the East Room at the White House. The awards presented to Dean Acheson, former Secretary of State, Edward R. Murrow, former Director of the United States Information Agency, and Carl Vinson, U.S. Representative from Georgia, were medals of "special distinction for Government service." Mr. Acheson responded to the President's remarks on behalf of all the recipients.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, established by Executive Order 11085 (28 F.R. 1759; 3 CFR, 1958-1963 Comp., p. 719) is the highest civil honor conferred by the President for service in peacetime. The names of the 30 winners of the 1964 awards were first made public on July 4 (see Item 447). For the 1963 ceremony see Item 27.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Presentation of the 1964 Presidential Medal of Freedom Awards. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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