Gerald R. Ford photo

Remarks Upon Presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Henry A. Kissinger

January 13, 1977

Mr. Ambassador, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Kissinger, Mr. Secretary-General, ladies and gentlemen:

Both Mrs. Ford and myself are deeply grateful for the invitation to participate in this farewell reception in honor of my very close and personal friend, the Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.

During the tenure of the Secretary of State, we have had many tasks, many challenges, many problems involving the building of a better world. While I will not suggest what might have been, it is my judgment that Henry's legacy provides rich testimony to his wisdom, to his brilliance in working toward solutions to some of the most difficult problems in our postwar history.

The United States, the world is greatly indebted to this superior person. I believe I speak for all of us when I say that Secretary Kissinger, whom we are honoring tonight, we have been impressed by our association with him on a personal basis, impressed by his intellect and his insight, and thankful for his mighty efforts for the cause of peace for mankind on a worldwide basis. He is, so far as this American is concerned, the greatest Secretary of State in the history of our Republic. His superb record of achievement is unsurpassed in the annals of American history.

But let me mention just a few examples: the agreement that brought our men home from Vietnam; the historic beginning of our relationship with the People's Republic of China; the foundation and the first building blocks of the strategic arms limitation talks; the turning point in the modern history of the Middle East, and the first steps toward peace; the breakthrough toward peaceful settlement in southern Africa; the closest friendship among the North Atlantic allies in a generation; the linking of Japan, our permanent friend, into the community of the industrial democracies; the new dialog with Latin America; the Seventh Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly, a milestone in world economic history.

In every case Secretary Kissinger has worked mightily for peace, and in every case the cause of peace has been advanced by his efforts. He led the way in awakening the industrialized nations, the industrialized world, to the changes that must be made if the poor of the world are to know hope and prosperity. He has been the architect of a new and productive relationship with our adversaries.

His is a record of unprecedented scope and enormous accomplishment. It is a record in which all Americans take pride and it is a record worthy of special recognition.

It is my particular pleasure to be able to give special recognition to this great American this evening before this distinguished and most appropriate audience.

Mr. Secretary, it is my honor and tremendous privilege to award you on behalf of this grateful Nation the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award it is within the power of a President to grant.

Mr. Secretary, I make this award not only in recognition of the monumental contributions that you have made to the security, peace, and freedom of the United States, but in recognition as well of the fact that during the dark days in our Nation's recent past you showed the world what we were capable of accomplishing and gave your countrymen a reason to be very proud of our Nation.

I make this award, Mr. Secretary, in the presence of the diplomatic corps because in the broadest sense what you did for America you did for all mankind.

Now I would like Mr. O'Donnell to read the citation, please.

[At this point, Terrence O'Donnell, Aide to the President, read the citation as follows:]

"Henry A. Kissinger, scholar, statesman and public servant. By his extraordinary achievements he has earned a place in the first rank of American patriots. A principal architect of America's diplomacy under two Presidents, he guided the Nation in meeting the responsibilities of world leadership. A brilliant negotiator, he wielded America's great power with wisdom and compassion in the service of peace. He is honored by a grateful President and Nation in the expectation that the past is but prologue."

"Signed, Gerald R. Ford, The White House, Washington, D.C."

Note: The President spoke at 7:25 p.m. at the Pan American Union, where the diplomatic corps was holding a reception in Secretary Kissinger's honor.

In his opening remarks, the President referred to Ambassador Guillermo Sevilla-Sacasa, dean of the diplomatic corps, Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller, and Alejandro Orfila, Secretary-General of the Organization of American States.

Secretary Kissinger's response to the President's remarks is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 13, p. 41).

Gerald R. Ford, Remarks Upon Presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Henry A. Kissinger Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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