We all know about the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but what about the Presidential Citizens Medal? This the second highest honor right behind the Presidential Medal of Freedom:
The Presidential Citizens Medal was established in November 13, 1969, to recognize U.S. citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for the nation. It is one of the highest honors the President can confer upon a civilian, second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
What brought this to my attention is that the James Billington, the head of the Library of Congress, was one of the 2008 recipients of this award.
There have been many past recipients and all of them are interesting, so I just choose a few that caught my eye.
In 2001, Ruby Bridges, was honored by President Clinton:
Ruby Bridges was born in 1954, the year the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education. Six years later, when she entered the 1st grade, the schools in her home town of New Orleans were still separate and unequal.
Ruby was chosen to integrate William France Public School, single-handedly. So when mobs gathered and shouted around this six-year old girl, she knelt and prayed. She had two U.S. Marshals ahead of her and two behind, but "prayer," she later said, was my protection."
Today, in lectures and books, Ruby is telling younger generations her story of strength and faith. And through the Ruby Bridges Foundation, she is helping schools to establish diversity programs, to achieve without the struggle and pain what she did four and a half decades ago.
Today, we pay tribute to the courage of a little girl and to the commitment of a lifetime.
Joe Delaney, a football player for the Kansas City Chiefs was awarded the medal by President Ronald Reagan in 1983:
Born with God-given physical talent, Joe Delaney brought distinction to himself and pride to his family and friends by exemplifying the best in sportsmanship as an outstanding high school, college and professional football player. Even more important, he set an example of citizenship off the playing field, as a caring, involved member of his community of Haughton, Louisiana.
On June 29, 1983, Joe Delaney, at age 24, made the ultimate sacrifice by placing the lives of three children above regard for his own safety.
You can explore more recipients of this medal at the site I’ve referenced.