In a White House ceremony on November 20, Denison alumnus and former U.S. Sen. Richard G. Lugar ’54 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, which recognizes individuals for “meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Lugar joined 15 others this year in receiving the prestigious award. Other 2013 recipients included television celebrity Oprah Winfrey; baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks; former President Bill Clinton; the late astronaut and physicist Sally Ride; and writer and activist Gloria Steinem.
“These are the men and women who, in their extraordinary lives, remind us all of the beauty of the human spirit, the values that define us as Americans, the potential that lives inside of all of us,” President Obama said.
“These are the men and women who, in their extraordinary lives, remind us all of the beauty of the human spirit, the values that define us as Americans, the potential that lives inside of all of us,”
Lugar, a Denison trustee and Rhodes Scholar, was praised for his more than 30 years of public service as a representative of Indiana in the U.S. Senate, during which time he was often heralded for crossing the political aisle in order to create bipartisan collaboration. One such collaborative effort came when Lugar teamed up with Sen. Sam Nunn to create the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in the Soviet Union. The program was so successful at reducing nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons there, that Congress expanded the program globally. Lugar is currently the president of the Lugar Center, an organization aimed at educating policy makers and the public on world issues, such as food and energy security, global development, bipartisan politics, and the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Denison’s Richard G. Lugar Program in Politics and Public Service — which affords students opportunities to explore careers in public policy and government through coursework, internships, and visits to campus by former members of Congress — is named in his honor. And the Richard G. Lugar Symposium in Public Policy at Denison, a prestigious speaker series that brings prominent public servants and opinion leaders to campus to address issues of national and international concern, was established through gifts from members of the Class of 1954 to honor their distinguished classmate.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was created by President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago. Only 500 individuals have been honored in that time. Past recipients have included Mother Teresa, Former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former President Ronald Reagan, artist Georgia O’Keeffe, author Toni Morrison, musicians Count Basie and Bob Dylan, philanthropist and economist Warren Buffett, activists César Chávez and Rosa Parks, and former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.