Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom
The President. When we finish this luncheon, I hope you'll stick around a little while. We're having a tag sale upstairs, and everything must go. [Laughter] But, really, thank you all for coming to be with us here today.
Truly, one of the privileges of this office which I've found greatest joy in exercising has been the opportunity to present our nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom. To stand, as I have had the honor of doing, with the recipients of this award has been to stand with the flesh and blood and spirit that is the greatness of America, men and women who have so greatly served our nation and helped keep her free. The contribution of each recipient has been unique and noteworthy, and today is no exception, as we honor two remarkable Americans: Mike Mansfield and George Shultz.
Mansfield has dedicated the entirety of a very long and productive lifetime to
public service. He served in both Houses of Congress, spanning seven Presidents,
and held the post of Senate majority leader longer than any other person. A
former professor of Far Eastern history, he played an important part in shaping
America's Asian policy, serving on both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and then as our Ambassador to Japan. For
a sizable portion of
George Shultz -- why did my voice crack just as I got to you -- [laughter] -- George Shultz has been a marine, an academic, and a businessman, and a public servant. He has held four Cabinet-level posts, distinguishing himself as a Secretary of Labor, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Treasury Secretary, and finally as one of America's great Secretaries of State. Over the last 6\1/2\ years, in managing our foreign policy, he has served wisely and met great challenges and great opportunities. George Shultz has helped to make the world a freer and more peaceful place.
there's nothing so precious and irreplaceable as
tomorrow is a special day for me. I'm going to receive my gold watch. And since
this is the last speech that I will give as President, I think it's fitting to
leave one final thought, an observation about a country which I love. It was
stated best in a letter I received not long ago. A man wrote me and said: ``You can go to live in
the torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage,
the compact with our parents, our grandparents, and our ancestors. It is that
lady who gives us our great and special place in the world. For it's the great
life force of each generation of new Americans that guarantees that
I believe, is one of the most important sources of
number of years ago, an American student traveling in
I don't tell this story to make the case for former POW's. Instead, I tell this
story just to remind you of the magical, intoxicating power of
is bold men and women, yearning for freedom and opportunity, who
leave their homelands and come to a new country to start their lives over. They
believe in the American dream. And over and over, they make it come true for
themselves, for their children, and for others. They give more than they
receive. They labor and succeed. And often they are entrepreneurs. But their
greatest contribution is more than economic, because
they understand in a special way how glorious it is to be an American. They
renew our pride and gratitude in the
Medal of Freedom represents the reverence the American people have for liberty,
and it honors the men and women who through their lives do greatest honor to
that freedom. The lives of the two men we honor here today tell a story about
freedom and all its possibilities and responsibilities, and, well, both those
that inhere in each free man and woman and those that fall upon a great and
free nation. Our honorees have dedicated their lives to preserving and
I will now read the citations for our two very distinguished award recipients
and present to them their medals. Perhaps I should mention that our first
recipient today -- the one who calls me kid -- [laughter] -- is the son of
immigrants, from a country called
And now, if Michael Mansfield and George Shultz would please come forward. George, you're due here.
World War I, Mike Mansfield, not yet 15, enlisted in the United States Navy,
Ambassador Mansfield. Mr. President, First Lady, Mr. Secretary of State and Mrs. Shultz, Ambassador Matsunaga and Mrs. Matsunaga, my former colleagues from both the House and the Senate, our distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I can't begin to express in words, Mr. President, my deep appreciation for what you've said about me and the encouragement which you've given me in my post as your Ambassador, your personal representative, our country's Ambassador to Japan.
However, I think that much of the credit should go to Maureen, my wife, who down through the years has been such a wonderful helpmate; whose advice, counsel, and understanding I appreciated; who worked harder at any job I've had and received little credit in the process. So, I want to say how much I owe to her, how much I'm indebted to her; how much I appreciate what the President has said -- who has laid out a sound policy for our future in the Pacific and East Asia. I appreciate the advice and counsel that George Shultz has given to me from time to time. And I appreciate the fact that, for the first time in memory, that we have both a President of the United States and a Secretary of State who are actively interested in the Pacific, in Japan, and in East Asia. I anticipate that the policies these men have laid down will be continued.
In conclusion, we may recall that Robert Sandburg [Frost], one of our poets, said on a certain occasion, there are things to do, miles to go, and promises to keep before we sleep. Well, Maureen and I have traveled many miles. We have had and still have things to do. And we still have the promises we made over half a century ago when we were joined together. So, to her I want to give special thanks for all that she has been able to do with me. And to the President and Nancy, my thanks, my appreciation for their thoughtfulness and consideration. Thank you very much.
The President. ``Unyieldingly dedicated to the protection of the American national interest, the advancement of freedom and human rights, the battle against tyranny, and reductions in nuclear arms, George P. Shultz has presided over the Department of State during one of the most critical periods in the history of this nation's foreign policy. For years of public service and his vital part in inaugurating a new era of hope in foreign policy, his countrymen honor him.''
Secretary Shultz. Mr. President, you know, Obie [Helena Shultz] has been traveling a million miles around the world with me. So, it's been a great partnership. But, Mr. President, I feel very special about receiving this award from you, and let me explain why. There's a phrase that's catching on -- ``the Reagan years.'' There's a ring to it. And, Mr. President, it is the ring of freedom. You have advocated it, fought for it. You have known that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. You have known this is a matter of principle on which you don't compromise. You have known that there are times when it requires action -- sometimes, at least initially, not necessarily popular action -- but you have to do it.
You have also known -- and I've heard you say many times -- that the strength comes from ``We the People,'' that we get our legitimacy and you get your legitimacy as President from the people. And you've never been in any doubt, and none of us have, about who we came here to serve: the American people.
I see you there with your arm around
So, all of these things make me especially proud to have served with you, to have been your Secretary of State. And to receive a medal from you called the Medal of Freedom has a significance for my life and Obie's life and my children that we will never forget.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Thank you. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have been privileged to participate in this recognition of the service of these two gentlemen to this great country of ours. I'm glad that all of you could be here. And now my clock tells me that -- like the letter I got the first week I was here from the little 11-year-old girl who told me all the things that I had to do and then said, ``Now, get over to the Oval Office and go to work.'' I see I've still got a few more hours of work ahead of me, and we're a little behind schedule. And so, we'll bid you all farewell, and thank you again for all being here and participating.
Note: The President spoke at in the State Dining Room at the White House.