Presidential Medal Of Freedom

Updated: August 3, 2021

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    The Presidential Medal of Freedom is, according to Whitehouse.gov, America’s highest honor bestowed upon civilians. It is awarded by the President of the United States to those who have made, “especially meritorious contributions” to national interests, security, world peace, etc.

    It’s  not to be confused with the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is America’s military decoration. Nor is it the Congressional Gold Medal, which is bestowed by the Legislative.

    The Highest Civilian Awards

    Presidential Medal Of FreedomWhen it comes to the most prestigious civilian awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom shares the spotlight with the Congressional Gold Medal.

    The Medal of Freedom can be presented to military members, civilians, citizens and non-citizens alike. It can be awarded more than once to a single recipient. One notable example is Colin Powell, who earned two such medals. For the veterans the medal is accompanied by a service ribbon for wear on military service uniform.

    It has also been awarded posthumously; two examples in the opening of this article include Yogi Berra and activist Minoru Yasui.

    A Brief History Of The Presidential Medal of Freedom

    The first version of the award was established in 1945 by President Harry S. Truman. Intended to be a way to honor exceptional actions by civilians during World War Two, but it would take until 1963 for a second presidential action–this time by President John F. Kennedy–to establish the Presidential Medal of Freedom as we know it today with its expanded scope of recognition.

    Ironically, President Kennedy’s first selections for this award had to be presented by his successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in the wake the the Kennedy assassination.

    That’s not what makes the moment ironic. What does? President Kennedy himself was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Johnson in that first round of presentations.

    Criteria For Awarding The Medal Of Freedom

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded for, “especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors”.

    Those up for the award may be selected by the President, who may consider nominees based on recommendations. Executive Order 12107 established the Presidential Rank Award Distinguished Review Board for that purpose.

    Other Presidential Awards

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom may be among the highest civilian awards, but there are other honors the President may confer on civilians, too. They include:

    • Enrico Fermi Award
    • “E” Award
    • “E Star” Award
    • Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award
    • Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
    • Presidential Rank Award
    • President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service
    • President’s Environmental Youth Award

    Notable Presidential Medal Of Freedom Winners That Also Served

    • Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin
    • Neil Armstrong
    • Yogi Berra
    • Bonnie Carroll
    • Johnny Carson
    • Dick Cheney
    • Michael Collins
    • Joe Dimaggio
    • Jack Keane
    • Jim Lovell
    • Robert A. Lovett
    • John J. McCloy
    • Colin Powell (2x)
    • Elvis Presley
    • Donald Rumsfeld
    • Ted Williams

    Notable Winners Of The Presidential Medal Of Freedom

    • Ansel Adams
    • Horace M. Albright
    • Walt Disney
    • Warren Christopher
    • Bob Cousy
    • Walter Cronkite
    • Kirk Douglas
    • Anthony Fauci
    • Orrin Hatch
    • Lou Holtz
    • Hubert Humphrey
    • Lyndon B. Johnson
    • Michael Jordan
    • Martin Luther King Jr.
    • Rush Limbaugh
    • Margaret McNamara
    • Margaret Mead
    • Roger Penske
    • Roger Tory Peterson
    • Gary Player
    • Hyman G. Rickover
    • Mariano Rivera
    • Babe Ruth
    • Jonas Salk
    • Antonin Scalia
    • Annika Sörenstam
    • Steven Spielberg
    • Barbra Streisand
    • James Taylor
    • Robert Penn Warren
    • John Wayne
    • Jerry West
    • Tennessee Williams
    • Tiger Woods
    • Babe Didrikson Zaharias

    About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News


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