The King of Rock & Roll. A legendary baseball slugger. A lawmaker. A humanitarian. Two jurists, including an American football star. Another football great.
President Trump has added the names of seven extraordinary Americans to the list of recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. He presented the awards to four at a White House ceremony November 16 and honored three posthumously.
The honorees rank among the United States’ most notable figures in sports, entertainment, philanthropy, politics and the law. They include baseball legend Babe Ruth (1895–1948), music icon Elvis Presley (1935–1977), Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (1936–2016), retiring Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, physician and philanthropist Miriam Adelson, and football Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Alan Page, the latter a Minnesota Supreme Court justice after his football career ended.
Politics and the law
The president saluted Hatch (Republican of Utah), 84, for “sponsoring more bills that have become law than any other living legislator” during 42 years in the upper chamber of Congress.
Trump praised Hatch for helping hardworking Americans and upholding the vision of the U.S. Founding Fathers, adding: “His achievements are too numerous to count.”
Describing Scalia as “one of the greatest jurists ever to serve our country,” Trump recalled Scalia’s “towering intellect, brilliant wit, and fierce devotion to our [country’s] founding principles.” He credited Scalia with “igniting a national movement to apply the original meaning of the Constitution as written.” Scalia is the 10th Supreme Court justice to receive the medal, including five with whom he served over three decades on the bench.
Trump hailed Adelson, 72, for devoting her life to fighting addiction. “Through decades of innovative research, philanthropy and treatment, Miriam has helped thousands break free from their addiction to drugs and alcohol,” the president said.
Adelson and her husband, Sheldon, a casino magnate, “established the Adelson Medical Research Foundation to prevent, reduce or eliminate life-threatening diseases,” the president said. Trump also applauded their support for Jewish schools and Holocaust memorials.
Sports and entertainment
Staubach, 76, “is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time,” Trump said. Staubach won the Heisman Trophy at the U.S. Naval Academy as the best college football player, served four years in the Navy, then became a 27-year-old rookie in the National Football League (NFL). He led the Dallas Cowboys to four Super Bowls, earned two championships and won election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Following his retirement from football, Staubach launched a successful commercial real estate firm and created a charity, Allies in Service, that mentors military veterans and their spouses.
Trump lauded Page, 73, as the first defensive player to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award. Page won accolades as a fearsome tackle for the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears. The Notre Dame graduate earned his University of Minnesota Law School degree while still playing football. He practiced law and was elected four times to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The sixth Medal of Freedom recipient, Babe Ruth (George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr.), is widely regarded as the greatest baseball player of all time. Nicknamed the Sultan of Swat and the Great Bambino, Ruth began as a stellar left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox but achieved near-mythical status as a slugging outfielder for the New York Yankees.
Ruth hit 714 home runs over 22 seasons — “a record that stood for nearly 40 years,” noted Trump — and “to this day, his career slugging percentage of .690 [a measure of batting productivity] remains the highest in the history of baseball.”
Raised in a Baltimore reformatory and orphanage, “the Babe was also known for his devotion to our nation and its children,” the president added. “He visited countless children in hospitals and orphanages, supported more than 100 charities,” and raised money “for the war effort during World War II.”
Finally, Trump saluted Presley, the blues-loving, guitar-playing native of Mississippi who rocketed to fame in the 1950s by redefining popular music. Presley became known as the King of Rock & Roll — or simply, the King.
But Presley answered his nation’s call as well. “Deeply patriotic, Elvis served in the U.S. military at the height of his fame,” from 1958–1960, said the president.
Presley recorded classic hits such as “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Jailhouse Rock” as well as a Grammy Award–winning gospel song, “How Great Thou Art.” He had 18 Number 1 hits, starred in more than 30 films, sold a billion records, and, as Trump said, “revolutionized live performances in the 1970s” with his electrifying stage presence.