Established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, this prestigious award is the Nation’s highest civilian honor. It is awarded by the President of the United States to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Past recipients have been movers and shakers in a range of fields, including public service, medicine, journalism, entertainment, and business. The impressive list of past honorees includes Steven Spielberg, Muhammad Ali, Angela Merkel, Nancy Reagan, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
The following received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump on July 24, 2020:
JIM RYUN. Jim Ryun is one of the most accomplished American runners in history and a former U.S. Representative from Kansas. Despite being cut from every athletic team in junior high, Ryun made the track team at Wichita East High School, where he went on to break the world record for the mile and compete in the 1964 Olympic Games. While at the University of Kansas, Ryun broke several more world records, won the silver medal at the 1968 Mexico City Games, and competed in the 1972 Munich Games. Following his outstanding athletic career, Ryun honorably served his home State of Kansas in Congress from 1996 to 2006.
The following received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump on March 10, 2020:
GENERAL JACK KEANE. General Jack Keane is one of our Nation’s most distinguished military leaders. General Keane proudly served his country in Vietnam as a paratrooper, receiving the Silver Star for his courage and gallantry in action. His steadfast leadership as a four-star General and as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army provided stability and direction for those under his command. Since retiring from the military, General Keane has remained engaged on matters of foreign policy, devoting himself to developing policies that confront the dynamic threats facing our Nation. The United States proudly honors General Jack Keane, whose tireless devotion to our country has defined him as a true American patriot.
The following received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump on October 24, 2019:
ROGER S. PENSKE. Roger S. Penske has led a life worthy of example as an accomplished businessman and humanitarian. Guided by his father’s favorite phrase, Effort Equals Results, he created and built Team Penske into the most successful motorsports group in history. Off the track, Mr. Penske built his first car dealership into the Penske Companies, great American businesses that also make their vehicles available to bring crucial supplies to people in need. Roger S. Penske’s passion and unrelenting drive have established him as an icon of sports and business. America is proud to honor him.
The following received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump on October 8, 2019:
EDWIN MEESE III. Edwin Meese III has long been a thought leader and strong conservative voice on matters of law and policy. As Counselor to President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Meese helped to craft a foreign policy strong enough to end the Cold War and played a pivotal role in securing historic tax cuts. As Attorney General, he promoted Federalism and the original public understanding of our Constitution. Since leaving public service, Edwin Meese has continued to champion our Nation’s founding principles through his extensive work at The Heritage Foundation. The United States proudly honors Edwin Meese III, who has dedicated his life to serving our Nation and protecting our liberties.
The following received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump on September 16, 2019:
MARIANO RIVERA. During his 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, Mariano Rivera established himself as the greatest relief pitcher of all time. Signed by the New York Yankees in 1990, Mr. Rivera went on to become a 13-time All-Star and 5-time World Series champion. He is the first player in the history of the sport to be elected unanimously into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Off the field, through the Mariano Rivera Foundation, he has helped provide children in need with an education, empowering them to achieve a better future. The United States proudly honors Mariano Rivera for being a legend of the game of baseball and for his commitment to strengthening America’s communities.
The following received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump on September 5, 2019:
JERRY WEST. Jerry Alan West is one of the greatest basketball players and sports executives of all time. After an outstanding collegiate career at West Virginia University, Mr. West played 14 seasons in the NBA, all with the Los Angeles Lakers, making the All-Star team each year. In 1972, “Mr. Clutch,” helped lead the Lakers to their first championship in Los Angeles. A few years later, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. After his playing career, Mr. West was a legendary NBA General Manager, responsible for building the Lakers juggernauts of the 1980s and 2000s. The United States now proudly honors Jerry West, whose excellence and determination made him a true basketball icon.
The following received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump on August 22, 2019:
BOB COUSY. Robert Joseph “Bob” Cousy is one of basketball’s all-time greatest players. During his 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, the “Houdini of the Hardwood” confounded opponents and was instrumental in building the team into a legendary success. Mr. Cousy won 6 NBA Championships with the Celtics, led the league in assists for 8 straight years, was a 13-time All-Star, and won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award in 1957. Off the court, he fought for racial equality by standing up to racism directed at his teammates, and he helped organize the NBA Players Association. In 1971, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The United States proudly honors Bob Cousy, whose competitiveness and character have solidified him as a distinguished athlete and American.
The following received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump on June 19, 2019:
ART LAFFER. Arthur B. Laffer, the “Father of Supply-Side Economics,” is one of the most influential economists in American history. He is renowned for his economic theory, the “Laffer Curve,” which establishes the strong incentive effects of lower tax rates that spur investment, production, jobs, wages, economic growth, and tax compliance. Dr. Laffer was the first chief economist of the Office of Management and Budget and a top economic advisor to President Ronald Reagan. Among other accomplishments during his distinguished career, he served as a consultant to the Department of the Treasury and Department of Defense. Dr. Laffer’s public service and contributions to economic policy have helped spur prosperity for our Nation.
The following received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump on May 6, 2019:
TIGER WOODS. Eldrick “Tiger” Woods is one of the greatest golfers of all time. He is second all-time in both professional victories with 81 and major championships with 15, including 5 Masters, 3 U.S. Opens, 3 Open Championships, and 4 PGA Championships. With a record-setting performance in 1997,he became the youngest person and first African American to win the Masters, and in 2019, he became the tournament’s second oldest champion. Off the course, Tiger established the TGR Foundation, which has empowered students to classroom and career success for more than 20 years. The United States is proud to honor Tiger Woods, whose tenacity, willpower, and unyielding drive inspire us all.
The following individuals received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump on November 16, 2018:
MIRIAM ADELSON. Miriam Adelson is a committed doctor, philanthropist, and humanitarian. She has practiced internal and emergency medicine, studied and specialized in the disease of narcotic addiction, and founded two research centers committed to fighting substance abuse. With her husband, Sheldon, she also established the Adelson Medical Research Foundation, which supports research to prevent, reduce, or eliminate disabling and life-threatening illness. As a committed member of the American Jewish community, she has supported Jewish schools, Holocaust memorial organizations, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and Birthright Israel, among other causes.
ORRIN G. HATCH. Senator Orrin Hatch is one of the longest serving Senators in American history, having represented Utah for more than 41 years. Currently the Senate’s President pro tempore and Chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Hatch has sponsored more bills that have become law than any other living Member of Congress. He has led the way in confirming qualified judges throughout the Federal judiciary in order to protect our constitutional order, and has championed religious liberty, fought against communism, and stood on the side of freedom around the world.
ALAN C. PAGE. Justice Alan Page is an accomplished jurist, athlete, and philanthropist. After a successful college football career at the University of Notre Dame, he played 15 years in the National Football League with the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears. He started in four Super Bowls, was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1971, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988. While playing for the Vikings, he obtained his law degree and practiced law during the off-season. After retiring from the NFL in 1981, Justice Page practiced law full-time before winning a seat on the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1992. He served for more than 20 years. Since 1988, his Page Education Foundation has provided scholarships to nearly 7,000 students.
ELVIS AARON PRESLEY. Elvis Presley defined American culture to billions of adoring fans around the world. Elvis fused gospel, country, and rhythm and blues to create a sound all his own, selling more than a billion records. Elvis also served nearly 2 years in the United States Army, humbly accepting the call to serve despite his fame. He later starred in 31 films, drew record-breaking audiences to his shows, sent television ratings soaring, and earned 14 GRAMMY Award nominations. He ultimately won 3 GRAMMY Awards for his gospel music. Elvis Presley remains an enduring American icon 4 decades after his death.
GEORGE HERMAN “BABE” RUTH, Jr. George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr. played for four baseball teams between 1914 and 1935. He set records that stood for decades, including 714 home runs, 2,873 hits, 2,174 runs, and 2,062 walks—and he remains unmatched with a .690 slugging percentage. Over 15 legendary seasons, Babe Ruth led the Yankees to 7 American League championships and 4 World Series championships. His legacy has never been eclipsed, and he remains the personification of “America’s Pastime.” Off the baseball field, he created The Babe Ruth Foundation and tirelessly raised funds for the war effort during the Second World War.
ANTONIN SCALIA. Antonin Scalia was one of the greatest Supreme Court justices in American history. Confirmed unanimously in 1986, Justice Scalia authored nearly 900 Supreme Court opinions. He was a champion of the Constitution, insisting that the role of Federal judges is to uphold the original meaning of the Constitution—never to impose their own beliefs on the country. Justice Scalia’s legal philosophy is rooted in America’s founding principles, legal heritage, and constitutional obligations. He never backed down from the bedrock proposition that the Constitution “means and will always mean what it meant when it was adopted.”
ROGER STAUBACH. Hall-of-Fame quarterback Roger Staubach played 11 seasons in the National Football League, winning two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, and making the Pro Bowl six times. He first made his mark on football at the United States Naval Academy, where he set 28 records and won the Heisman Trophy in 1963. Soon after graduating, Mr. Staubach volunteered to fight in the Vietnam War. Following his football career, he was a successful businessman and a champion for many charitable causes, including the United Way of America, the Children’s Scholarship Fund, and Allies in Service, an organization devoted to supporting service members, veterans, and their spouses.