- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

President Bush yesterday bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom the nation's highest civilian honor on a dozen recipients, saying each had created "an enduring legacy of hope and courage and achievement."

The list included newspaper editor and columnist A.M. Rosenthal; President Reagan's wife, Nancy Reagan; baseball home run king Hank Aaron; comedian Bill Cosby; opera singer Placido Domingo; publisher Katharine Graham; former South African President Nelson Mandela; and Fred Rogers, host of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" for over three decades.

The president said of Mr. Rosenthal: "A.M. Rosenthal's calling is journalism; his passion is human rights. 'When I come out for human rights,' he says, 'I'm not talking in the abstract. I know that if I lived in a dictatorship, I would be in jail very quickly.' [His] outspoken defense of persecuted Christians in Asia, Africa and the Middle East have truly made him his brother's keeper."

Mr. Rosenthal, a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign affairs correspondent who became the executive editor of the New York Times, currently writes a weekly column for The Washington Times and the New York Daily News, which appears in this newspaper every Monday.

Also honored were management theorist Peter Drucker, public health expert D.A. Henderson, conservative thinker Irving Kristol and Intel Corp. co-founder Gordon Moore.

Mr. Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, lauded Mr. Aaron for more than hitting 755 home runs, which eclipsed slugger Babe Ruth's record of 714.

"Hank Aaron overcame poverty and racism to become one of the most accomplished baseball players of all time. 'When I was in a ballpark,' he said, 'I felt like I was surrounded by angels, and I had God's hand on my shoulder.' By steadily pursuing his calling in the face of unreasoning hatred, Hank Aaron has proven himself a great human being, as well as a great athlete."

The president praised Mrs. Reagan for her anti-drug campaign during her husband's two terms in office, calling her an "eloquent example of loyalty and courage and abiding love." Mrs. Reagan now cares full-time for her husband, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

Mr. Bush lauded Mr. Mandela's efforts as a leading opponent of apartheid, who spent much of his adult life in prison for his views.

Mr. Cosby, praised by Mr. Bush as "a gifted comedian who has used the power of laughter to heal wounds and to build bridges," loosened up the quiet throng in the East Room when he jumped to his feet, calling out "present," when his name was called. When the president patted him low on the back, Mr. Cosby jumped again, shrieking, as if he had been goosed. The president cracked up, and the audience laughed appreciatively. Said Secretary of State Colin Powell, chuckling appreciatively over the Cosby antics at the reception held afterward: "He can't help it. He's on all the time."

The president hailed Mr. Rogers for his "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" show for demonstrating "that television can soothe the soul and nurture the spirit and teach the very young."

Mr. Bush also praised:

•Mr. Henderson, "a great general in mankind's war against disease," for leading the World Health Organization's Global Smallpox Eradication Campaign from 1966 to 1977.

•Mr. Domingo, for "making sure that the great music of the past will continue to delight opera lovers the world over."

•Mr. Drucker, a pioneer of management theory, for "his determination to help our nonprofit and faith-based institutions carry out their desperately needed missions more effectively."

•The late Katharine Graham, whose award was accepted by her daughter, columnist Lally Weymouth, "for her determined pursuit of journalistic excellence."

•Mr. Kristol, for "grappling with ultimate problems, and in thinking them through, he has vastly enlarged the conservative vision."

•Mr. Moore, for the "ripple effects of his explosive genius have helped create our age of information."

The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established by President Truman in 1945 to recognize civilians for their service during World War II and reinstated by President Kennedy in 1963 to honor distinguished peacetime service.

The medal, Mr. Bush said, recognizes individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, or to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."


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