Early last week I heard some rumblings on talk radio about President Obama’s choice recipients for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor a civilian can garner, as established by President Harry Truman some 64 years ago to recognize extraordinary civil service. The main arguments of talk radio was that in giving the award to Mary Robinson we are witnessing the cheapening of the award, as she “embodies the worst of the united nations” as well as harboring anti-Semitic views.
Mary Robinson was the first female president of Ireland, but much of the scrutiny against her and her being picked to receive the award stems from her work as the United Nations high commissioner for Human Rights. The most glaring was her overseeing of the Durban Conference Against Racism in South Africa in 2001. The meeting was so filled with anti-Israel sentiments that the US delegation walked out. After the Durban Conference her standing with our ally country was further weakened as she routinely sided with the Palestinians in believing that Israel was responsible for the violence perpetrated against them.
Now, is Mary Robinson anti-Semitic? I couldn’t tell you for sure. But I can tell you that President Obama believes she is deserving, so I took a look at the rest of the people President Obama chose to give the award to. Then I compared them to the first list of people that President George W. Bush chose back in 2001 to try and gain an understanding of the differences in mindsets between the two presidents.
A few of Obama’s 16 recipients include: Stephen Hawking, a British theoretical physicist and one of the greatest minds of our time, Nancy Goodman Brinker, the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court, and the late Congressman Jack Kemp who also served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Ronald Reagan. It’s hard to envision anyone having an issue with these people, it was in looking at the rest of Obama’s list that really caught my eye, and further supports my view that Obama has a world view profoundly different than the average American.
The rest of the list includes: Senator Ted Kennedy, a lifelong scandal clad democrat who’s major goal for years has been the enactment of Universal Healthcare, Billie Jean King, the women’s tennis legend who was also the first prominent female athlete to come out as a lesbian, Sidney Poitier, the first African American to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, as well as ardent Obama supporter, Chita Rivera, revered theater performer who was the first Hispanic to receive the Kennedy Center Honor, Harvey Milk, the first openly gay official elected to city government, who “encouraged LGBT citizens to live their lives openly.” That brings us back to Mary Robinson, who was the first female president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner.
On July 9th, 2002 President George W. Bush choose his first round of recipients for the Medal of Freedom. His list includes the likes of Hank Aaron, Bill Cosby, Nancy Reagan and Nelson Mandela. It also included lesser known folks such as Peter Drucker, author of 39 books who is considered to be the father of modern management. Irving Kristol who championed Capitalism and contributed to many publications including the Wall Street Journal. He is the so called father of neo-conservatism as well as the real father of William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard. Gordon Moore, billionaire co-founder of the Intel Corporation. Katharine Graham, former owner of The Washington Post that was credited with partially bringing about the fall of Richard Nixon. And finally, Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers from his long running children’s television show Mister Rogers Neighborhood.
Clearly the choices for the Presidential Medal of Freedom are just that, the President’s choices, so they are allowed to pick whomever they deem fit. I understand the awards are given to people who have been renowned humanitarians, as the people on Obama’s and Bush’s lists can be labeled as such. I just wanted to give you an idea of the kind of people Obama believes to be most deserving of this esteemed honor. To him, as opposed to Bush, equality and being an “agent of change” is king. The differences in thinking between Bush, a “compassionate” conservative and Obama, a very liberal democrat are enormous. And as Obama continues his full court press to broaden the scope of government and promote egalitarian values, I just hope the average citizen realizes it.