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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release September 6, 1996


President Clinton has announced that he will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, to eleven distinguished Americans. All have made important contributions to their communities and the nation. The President will bestow the medals at a White House ceremony on September 9, 1996. The honorees are:

JOSEPH CARDINAL BERNARDIN. One of the most beloved priests in the country, Cardinal Bernardin has had a distinguished career in the Church. At age 38, he became the youngest bishop in the nation, consecrated in the Atlanta archdiocese. He was assigned to Chicago in 1982, was named cardinal within a year, and set about to strengthen the Chicago archdiocese. Cardinal Bernardin has championed such causes as racial equality and arms control, and has been a persistent voice for moderation.

JAMES BRADY. In less than three months on the job, Brady had already become an effective and popular press secretary for President Reagan when he was shot by President Reagan's would-be assassin, John Hinckley, and left paralyzed. Mr. Brady and his wife, Sarah, went on to become courageous, outspoken leaders in the fight for responsible gun control, including the "Brady Bill," which bears his name.

MILLARD FULLER. Founder and president of Habitat for Humanity, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, Fuller has devoted himself to providing decent and affordable housing for low-income families. Habitat has already built over 50,000 homes in the United States and around the world and has become one of the nation's largest home builders. The organization is designed to provide a hand up, not a hand-out, and those who buy Habitat homes must invest not only their dollars but their own labor alongside Habitat volunteers.

DAVID HAMBURG. A psychiatrist who has devoted his life to fighting for the needs and rights of American children, Hamburg is retiring this year from the Presidency of the Carnegie Foundation. He has been a major influence on generations of policy makers and has worked tirelessly for measures such as the Family and Medical Leave Act. He has written about building parental competence, strengthening social support networks by bringing generations together, and child development.

JOHN H. JOHNSON. Johnson is the Chief Executive Officer of Johnson Publishing Company, which produces leading African-American magazines, including Ebony and Jet. He has committed himself to breaking negative stereotypes and building self-respect in the Black community by turning the spotlight on successful African-Americans.

EUGENE LANG. In 1981, Lang "adopted" the sixth grade class of his alma mater in East Harlem, promising to cover the costs of college for any child who graduated from high school. A remarkable 75% of the class took him up on his offer and got their degrees or equivalency certificates. Inspired by that experience, Lang created the "I Have a Dream" Foundation in 1986, to give underprivileged children a chance at college by providing financial assistance, mentoring, and tutoring. Today, there are over 15,000 students in 59 cities involved in "I Have a Dream."

JAN NOWAK-JEZIORANSKI. National Director of the Polish-American Congress, Nowak has devoted his life to the cause of freedom and democracy. During World War II, he risked his life as a member of the Polish underground, making numerous trips from Nazi-occupied Warsaw to London in order to inform Allied leaders. For 25 years, he directed Radio Free Europe's Polish Service, serving as the voice of democracy for a generation of Poles.

ANTONIA PANTOJA. The founder of many organizations dedicated to serving the Puerto Rican community, Pantoja has devoted her energies to promoting community development. In 1961, she helped found ASPIRA, an organization that promotes education, leadership training, and community service for Latino youth. Spreading her "dare to dream" message, she has helped many Latino youth to achieve their higher educational goals. She is also a leading advocate of community restoration and development.

ROSA PARKS. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama and helped launch the modern civil rights movement. Since that historic act of civil disobedience, Parks has remained devoted to human rights issues. In 1987, she founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in Detroit, which offers career training for teenagers. She makes frequent personal appearances and was a vocal opponent of apartheid in South Africa.

GINETTA SAGAN. Fifty years ago, Sagan was tortured and nearly killed by Mussolini's Black Brigade because of her involvement with the Italian resistance. With courage and determination, she has fought human rights abuses around the world. She founded the first West Coast chapter of Amnesty International USA and has organized some 75 other chapters around the United States. Amnesty International has honored her by creating the Ginetta Sagan Fund, which is dedicated to stopping torture and persecution of women and children and promotes human rights education.

MORRIS UDALL. A World War II veteran and former professional basketball player, Udall represented Arizona during a distinguished thirty-year career in the House of Representatives. Afflicted with Parkinson's disease, he resigned his seat in 1991. Widely respected for his humor and quiet dignity, he served as the Chairman of the Interior Committee for fourteen years, leading the way on landmark environmental legislation, including the Alaska Lands Act, the 1984 Wilderness Act, and the 1982 Nuclear Waste Management Act.