Presidential Medal of Freedom

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Presidential Medal of Freedom
PresMedalFreedom.jpg
Awarded by
Seal Of The President Of The United States Of America.svg
President of the United States
Type Medal
Awarded for "An especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."1
Status Active
Statistics
Established 1960
First awarded 1960
Distinct
recipients
unknown; an average of fewer than 11 per year since 1993 2
Precedence
Next (lower) Presidential Citizens Medal
Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction (ribbon).PNG Presidential Medal of Freedom (ribbon).png
Service ribbon of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
(left: Medal with Distinction)

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with the comparable Congressional Gold Medal, bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award of the United States. It recognizes those individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors".3 The award is not limited to U.S. citizens and, while it is a civilian award, it can also be awarded to military personnel and worn on the uniform.

It was established in 1963 and replaced the earlier Medal of Freedom that was established by President Harry S Truman in 1945.

History of the award

Similar in name to the Medal of Freedom established by President Harry S. Truman in 1945 to honor civilian service during World War II,3 but much closer in meaning and precedence to the Medal for Merit: the Presidential Medal of Freedom is currently the supreme civilian decoration in precedence, whereas the Medal of Freedom was inferior in precedence to the Medal for Merit; the Medal of Freedom was awarded by any of three Cabinet secretaries, whereas the Medal for Merit was (and the PMOF is) awarded by the president. Another measure of the difference between these two similarly named but very distinct awards is their per-capita frequency of award: from 1946 to 1961 the average annual incidence of award of the Medal of Freedom was approximately 1 per every 86,500 adult U.S. citizens; from 1996 to 2011 the average annual incidence of award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom was approximately 1 per every 20,500,000 adult U.S. citizens (so on an annualized per capita basis, 240 Medals of Freedom have been awarded per one Presidential Medal of Freedom).24

President Kennedy established the current decoration in 1963 through Executive Order 11085, with unique and distinctive insignia, vastly expanded purpose, and far higher prestige.1 It was the first U.S. civilian neck decoration and, in the grade of Awarded With Distinction, is the only U.S. sash and star decoration (the Chief Commander degree of the Legion of Merit – which may only be awarded to foreign heads of state – is a star decoration, but without sash). The Executive Order calls for the medal to be awarded annually on or around July 4, and at other convenient times as chosen by the president,5 but it has not been awarded every year (e.g., 2001, 2010). Recipients are selected by the president, either on his own initiative or based on recommendations. The order establishing the medal also expanded the size and the responsibilities of the Distinguished Civilian Service Awards Board so it could serve as a major source of such recommendations.

The medal may be awarded to an individual more than once (John Kenneth Galbraith and Colin Powell each have received two awards; Ellsworth Bunker received both of his awards With Distinction), and may also be awarded posthumously (for example, Cesar Chavez, Paul "Bear" Bryant, Roberto Clemente, Jack Kemp, John F. Kennedy, Thurgood Marshall, Lyndon Johnson and Neil Armstrong).

Insignia

Medal and accoutrements including undress ribbon, miniature, and lapel badge.
Graphical representation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction.

The badge of the Presidential Medal of Freedom is in the form of a golden star with white enamel, with a red enamel pentagon behind it; the central disc bears thirteen gold stars on a blue enamel background (taken from the Great Seal of the United States) within a golden ring. Golden American Bald Eagles with spread wings stand between the points of the star. It is worn around the neck on a blue ribbon with white edge stripes.

A special grade of the medal, known as the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction,6 has a larger execution of the same medal design worn as a star on the left chest along with a sash over the right shoulder (similar to how the insignia of a Grand Cross is worn), with its rosette (blue with white edge, bearing the central disc of the medal at its center) resting on the left hip. When the medal With Distinction is awarded, the star may be presented depending from a neck ribbon and can be identified by its larger size than the standard medal (compare size of medals in pictures below; President Reagan's was awarded With Distinction).

Both medals may also be worn in miniature form on a ribbon on the left chest, with a silver American Bald Eagle with spread wings on the ribbon (or a golden American Bald Eagle for a medal awarded "With Distinction"). In addition, the medal is accompanied by a service ribbon for wear on military service uniform, a miniature medal pendant for wear on mess dress or civilian formal wear, and a lapel badge for wear on civilian clothes (all shown in the accompanying photograph of the full presentation set).

Recipients

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Executive Order 11085, signed February 22, 1960; Federal Register 28 FR 1759, February 26, 1963
  2. ^ a b Senate.gov
  3. ^ a b Executive Order 9586, signed July 6, 1945; Federal Register 10 FR 8523, July 10, 1945
  4. ^ Census.gov
  5. ^ Presidential Medal of Freedom Award
  6. ^ Torreon, Barbara Salazar (31 Mar 2004). "A Guide to Major Congressional and Presidential Awards". CRS Report for Congress. RS20884 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service - Library of Congress (United States Government)). p. 4. Retrieved 2011-02-09. "There are two degrees of the Medal, the higher being the Presidential Medal of Freedom with distinction." 

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