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President Clinton Awards 15 Presidential Medals of Freedom at White House TodayAired August 9, 2000 - 3:35 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: And in just a few moments, Mr. Clinton will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 15 distinguished Americans --included in that group: the Reverend Jesse Jackson, 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern, retiring Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.
That ceremony is just getting just underway. Let's listen.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established by President Kennedy by executive order in 1963. The first medals actually were presented for the first time by President Johnson, following Mr. Kennedy's assassination on December 6th, 1963. The executive order was in February of 1963. This will probably be the last awarding by President Clinton of the medal, which is the highest civilian award to individuals who have made contributions, especially meritorious to the security or national interests of the U.S., to world peace, or to other cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
They are gathering on the stage. You see among them Jesse Jackson Sr. -- also today will be NATO General Wesley Clark among those being honored -- Admiral William Crowe -- he's the former Joint Chiefs chairman. Senator John Chafee will be awarded posthumously. The senator from Rhode Island died this year. And Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund will be among those.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: Welcome to the White House. Please be seated. We are absolutely delighted to have all of you here. You know, there are there many things that I and the president are going to miss about living and being part of the White House's life, but none more than this ceremony, which means so much to our sense of history and our sense of citizenship.
And today is a very special occasion. All of the 15 extraordinary citizens who are receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom have not only earned our highest civilian honor, but also the gratitude of every single American. And it is a wonderful collection of people whom you will meet in a more personal way when the president introduces each of them.
I also want to acknowledge that we have many members of the president's Cabinet here, including Secretary Albright and the Secretary Cohen and acting Secretary Gober and Secretary Herman, Attorney General Reno, Secretary Riley, Secretary Slater, Secretary Shalala and Secretary Summers.
We also have director Lachance, and Administrator Alvarez. We have members of Congress, including Senator Tom Dashle and Congressman Jim McGovernor, and of course Senator Moynihan, who is here as a recipient himself, along with Senator Lincoln, Chafee and Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who are here as the proud sons of awardees. And there are many members of the honorees' families and friends and colleagues over lifetimes who are in the East Room today. And I thank you all for being here.
The history of these medals dates back to the days of, first, President Truman, who in 1945, wanted to recognize service and wartime and then later, President Kennedy, who expanded their scope to honor distinguished civilians who gave service to their country in peacetime. He announced the very first recipients in Independence day in 1963, but tragically never lived to give the awards himself.
In explaining why President Kennedy created this Presidential Medal of Freedom -- with the help and advice, I might add, of Senator Moynihan -- President Johnson said: "Our glory is peace, not war, our greatness is in people, not power. Our genius for 188 years has been the excellence of individuals"
And these 15 citizens receiving the medal today continue that proud tradition. And I know that there are many firsts in this crowd of wonderful citizens about to receive this medal, including one of my first bosses, Marian Wright Edelman at the Children's Defense Fund, and one of my first political bosses, George McGovern, in the 1972 presidential campaign.
And Sarge Shriver is here with a McGovern-Shriver button on, which -- it's a real museum piece. And we are so pleased to have all of you here with us. It is my great honor to...
WATERS: First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton about to introduce the president, who's about to award those 15 Medal of Freedom to private citizens in the East Room of the White House.
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