THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Statement by the Press Secretary
President Clinton announced today that he will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation's highest civilian honor, to 15 distinguished Americans. The President will bestow the medals at a White House ceremony on January 15, 1998.
Arnold Aronson. A civil rights leader for over fifty years, Arnie Aronson co-founded and led the path-breaking Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, coordinated lobbying campaigns to pass the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1950s and 1960s, and joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of the ten leaders of the 1963 March on Washington.
Brooke Astor. A New York philanthropist, Brooke Astor, through the Vincent Astor Foundation, has spent a lifetime funding innovative projects, ranging from outdoor living spaces in public housing to the revitalization of the New York Public Library, for which she has served as a trustee since 1959.
Robert Coles. As Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard, psychiatrist, recipient of a MacArthur Genius Award, and Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of more than 50 books, Coles is a leader in the call to citizen service. He has explored children's relationships with their world, focusing much of his research on how children experience racism and spirituality. Early in his career, he served as an adviser to President Kennedy on racial and education issues.
Justin Dart, Jr. Considered the father of the historic Americans with Disabilities Act, Justin Dart has worked from his wheelchair for more than 40 years to expand the rights of others. From his days at the University of Houston organizing a civil rights initiative to his government service to his trailblazing work on behalf of people with disabilities, Dart has profoundly influenced the public policy of this Nation.
James Farmer. One of our Nation's most influential civil rights leaders, James Farmer formed the Congress of Racial Equality in 1942, which became a catalyst of the civil rights movement. As the director of CORE, Farmer introduced nonviolent resistance against segregation and discrimination through such activities as sit-ins, standing lines, and the famous Freedom Rides. He is currently a professor at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA.
Frances Hesselbein. Mrs. Hesselbein is one of the foremost experts on not-for-profit corporations and management in the workplace. As the leader of the Girl Scouts of America from 1976 to 1990, she transformed the organization. By 1990 her policies had produced a record membership of 3 million and had tripled minority participation. She is now President and CEO of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Non-Profit Management, which helps non-profit organizations maintain their values while more effectively meeting the needs of those they serve.
Fred Korematsu. Fred Korematsu's legal challenges to civilian exclusion orders during WWII serve as the underpinning of the redress movement for Japanese Americans. In 1942, he was arrested and convicted for violating the government's exclusion orders, sentenced to five years of probation and sent to an internment camp. Korematsu appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court, where it was upheld in 1944. Forty years later in 1983, a Federal district court found the Government's exclusion and detention actions during the war were legally unsupportable and that the Government's defense of the actions was based on fraud and misconduct.
Sol Linowitz. Linowitz, along with David Rockefeller, is a founder and a former chair of the International Executive Service Corps. A volunteer program that sends American executives to provide managerial and technical expertise to developing countries, IESC has launched more than 10,000 service projects. In addition to a successful career as an international lawyer and businessman, Linowitz served as United States representative to the OAS as well as co-negotiator of the Panama Canal treaties and President Carter's Ambassador-at-Large for Middle East negotiations.
Wilma Mankiller. Rising out of poverty and overcoming great personal tragedy, Wilma Mankiller was appointed the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in 1985. In 1987, she became the first elected female leader of a major Indian tribe and was re-elected twice. Known for being an effective leader, she has emphasized reducing Cherokee infant mortality, improving health and educational systems, and promoting Cherokee business interests.
Margaret (Mardy) Murie. A lifetime environmental activist and the widow of renowned naturalist Olaus Murie, Ms. Murie has been at the forefront of the conservation movement for over 70 years. A member of the governing council of The Wilderness Society, her work led to, among other accomplishments, the passage of landmark legislation that protected some of our Nation's most pristine and precious lands in Alaska. She also founded the Teton Science School to teach ecology to students of all ages.
Mario G. Obledo, 65. As co-founder of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the National Hispanic Bar Association, Mario Obledo has been at the forefront of the struggle to ensure the civil rights of America's Hispanic citizens. Obledo served as Chairman of the National Rainbow Coalition from 1988 to 1993. He is a veteran of the Korean Conflict and has served as Secretary of Health and Welfare of the State of California and as an Assistant Attorney General of the State of Texas.
Elliot L. Richardson. Elliot Richardson has served in four different U.S. cabinet positions. During the administrations of Presidents Nixon and Ford, he served as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare; Secretary of Defense; Attorney General; and Secretary of Commerce. In addition, he has held the positions of Undersecretary of State and Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Mr. Richardson served with distinction through some of the most difficult times in American Government, resigning as Attorney General during the Watergate scandal. A decorated World War II veteran, Mr. Richardson is the recipient of the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.
David Rockefeller. Co-founder with Sol Linowitz of the International Executive Service Corps, David Rockefeller, the former longtime chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, is also a renowned philanthropist. Personally and through the various Rockefeller Foundations he has funded a multitude of projects in fields such as the arts, literacy, food distribution, international family planning efforts, Latin American studies, and clinical treatment of Alzheimer's disease. He was also a co-founder of the Dartmouth Conference and the Trilateral Commission, both of which have opened new pathways of communication for world leaders.
Albert Shanker (posthumous). Shanker first became known in the 1960s as the aggressive leader of New York City's teachers' union. During his long tenure as President of the American Federation of Teachers and as Vice-President of the AFL-CIO, Shanker worked to change radically how schools and teachers' unions do business. He became a staunch proponent of teacher certification and higher standards for students.
Elmo Russell (Bud) Zumwalt, Jr., 76. A distinguished Naval veteran, Admiral Zumwalt served as Commander of United States Naval Forces in Vietnam and later as Chief of Naval Operations. Respected for his progressive policies as CNO, Zumwalt issued tough directives to end discrimination, particularly against blacks and women, and his actions were credited with helping to reverse negative trends in Navy enlistment. A successful businessman, he now devotes much of his time to securing compensation for veterans whose health problems can be linked to their service in Vietnam.