July 30, 2009
Late Jack Kemp Given Medal of Freedom
This morning, the White House announced that the late Jack Kemp, a hero of many political conservatives, prolifers, and many conservative evangelicals, would be awarded the Medal of Freedom. (See below for the full list, which also includes Desmond Tutu and Rev. Joseph Lowery.)
Kemp's biography reveals a person of conviction who lived out his life in the public through sports, politics, and social activism, motivated by his faith convictions. He joined his wife's Presbyterian church after their marriage.
In the New York Times obit from this past May, there was this comment:
"Jack Kemp is the indispensable political leader of the modern conservative economic revival," Edwin J. Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research institution in Washington, said recently, adding, "Jack's role in developing and exploring the potential of supply-side economics in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for Reagan's economic program."
Kemp was indeed a rare person and most conservatives (I hope) will salute the decision of the Obama administration to grant Kemp this kind of recognition. His voice certainly is missed in the current political debates in Washington.
From the White House press office:
President Obama today named 16 recipients of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom. America's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. This year's awardees were chosen for their work as agents of change. President Obama will present the awards at a ceremony on Wednesday, August 12.
The White House biosheet on Kemp notes:
Jack Kemp, who passed away in May 2009, served as a U.S. Congressman (1971 â€“ 1989), Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (1989 â€“ 1993), and Republican Nominee for Vice President (1996). Prior to entering public service, Kemp was a professional football player (1957 â€“ 1969) and led the Buffalo Bills to American Football League championships in 1964 and 1965. In Congress and as a Cabinet Secretary, Kemp was a self-described "bleeding heart conservative" who worked to encourage development in underserved urban communities. In the years leading up to his death, Kemp continued seeking new solutions, raising public attention about the challenge of poverty, and working across party lines to improve the lives of Americans and others around the world.
The following other individuals will receive the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom:
Nancy Goodman Brinker
Nancy Goodman Brinker is the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world's leading breast cancer grass roots organization.
Pedro JosÃ© Greer, Jr.
Dr. Pedro Jose Greer is a physician and the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs at the Florida International University School of Medicine, where he also serves as Chair of the Department of Humanities, Health and Society. Dr. Greer is the founder of Camillus Health Concern, an agency that provides medical care to over 10,000 homeless patients a year in the city of Miami.
Stephen Hawking is an internationally-recognized theoretical physicist, having overcome a severe physical disability due to motor neuron disease. He is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a post previously held by Isaac Newton in 1669.
Sen. Edward Kennedy
Senator Edward M. Kennedy has served in the United States Senate for forty-six years, and has been one of the greatest lawmakers â€“ and leaders â€“ of our time.
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King was an acclaimed professional tennis player in the 1960s and 1970s, and has helped champion gender equality issues not only in sports, but in all areas of public life. King beat Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match, then the most viewed tennis match in history.
Rev. Joseph Lowery
Reverend Lowery has been a leader in the U.S. civil rights movement since the early 1950s. Rev. Lowery helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott after Rosa Parks was denied a seat.
Joe Medicine Crow â€“ High Bird
Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the last living Plains Indian war chief, is the author of seminal works in Native American history and culture. He is the last person alive to have received direct oral testimony from a participant in the Battle of the Little Bighorn: his grandfather was a scout for General George Armstrong Custer.
Harvey Milk became the first openly gay elected official from a major city in the United States when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.
Sandra Day O'Connor
Justice O'Connor was the first woman ever to sit on the United States Supreme Court. Nominated by President Reagan in 1981, she served until her retirement in 2006.
Sidney Poitier is a groundbreaking actor, becoming the top black movie star in the 1950s and 1960s.
Chita Rivera is an accomplished and versatile actress, singer, and dancer, who has won Two Tony Awards and received seven more nominations while breaking barriers and inspiring a generation of women to follow in her footsteps.
Mary Robinson was the first female President of Ireland (1990 â€“ 1997) and a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997 â€“ 2002), a post that required her to end her presidency four months early.
Janet Davison Rowley
Janet Davison Rowley, M.D., is the Blum Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology and Human Genetics at The University of Chicago. She is an American human geneticist and the first scientist to identify a chromosomal translocation as the cause of leukemia and other cancers.
Desmond Tutu is an Anglican Archbishop emeritus who was a leading anti-apartheid activist in South Africa. Widely regarded as "South Africa's moral conscience," he served as the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) from 1978 â€“ 1985, where he led a formidable crusade in support of justice and racial reconciliation in South Africa. He received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work through SACC in 1984. Tutu was elected Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, and the Chair of the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995. He retired as Archbishop in 1996 and is currently Chair of the Elders.
Dr. Muhammad Yunus is a global leader in anti-poverty efforts, and has pioneered the use of "micro-loans" to provide credit to poor individuals without collateral. Dr. Yunus, an economist by training, founded the Grameen Bank in 1983 in his native Bangladesh to provide small, low-interest loans to the poor to help better their livelihood and communities. Despite its low interest rates and lending to poor individuals, Grameen Bank is sustainable and 98% percent of its loans are repaid â€“ higher than other banking systems. It has spread its successful model throughout the world. Dr. Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work.