And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars
And whether or not they had one upon thars.
from: The Sneetches and Other Stories
written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House, 1961
accessed on YouTube 1/17/21
I won first place for some lyrics I wrote back in college. A few years ago you might remember, I won third place for the challah I entered in our county fair, but that’s it. I won a ribbon at the Fair, not a metal medal. I was happy to accept it and the $3.00 prize that went along with it. (I don’t think prize money covered the cost of the ingredients, but I’d have to get back to you on that.) I guess part of the reason I don’t win much is I’m not too big on entering contests.
Lots of medals and awards are presented for many reasons. The Olympics and other sporting events like the Super Bowl and World Series, music awards including the Grammys, entertainment accolades like Oscars, Emmys, and Tonys, and Military honors like the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, and the Nobel Prizes, as well as the Newbery, Caldecott, and Pulitzer are just some off the top of my head.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is our country’s highest civilian award.
In 1963, President Kennedy revamped the Medal of Freedom, first issued by President Truman to honor “...any person ...who, on or after December 7, 1941, has performed a meritorious act or service which has aided the United States in the prosecution of a war against an enemy or enemies...(or) has similarly aided any nation engaged with the United States in the prosecution of a war against a common enemy or enemies.” (Executive Order 9586) https://ecommons.udayton.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1081&context=pol_fac_pub
Kennedy broadened the scope to include a person’s “…especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” (Executive Order 11085. See above citation.) The award is given at the president’s discretion.
Awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom is a presidential duty. No one else bestows that award. Here’s a list of President Obama’s recipients. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/campaign/medal-of-freedom Other presidents awarded the prize, too. The list is very long (well over 630) and includes in no particular order Steven Spielberg, Mother Teresa, Neil Armstrong, Jonas Salk, Martin Luther King, Stephen Hawking, Toni Morrison, Marian Anderson, E. B. White, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
During last year’s State of the Union address, Rush Limbaugh, yep, the right wing radio personality who coined the term “feminazi,” accepted this highest civilian honor from, starting tomorrow (January 20, 2021) at noon, the former president.
Last week, Bill Belichick declined the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
While I won’t dispute whether or not he deserved it (I really know beans about football, but I just found out he won six Super Bowls in the last ten years, so that’s something), fact is, he declined the honor and the medal that went with it.
The “tragic events of last week,” when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol Building, led Belichick to his decision. He went on to say, “I was flattered … out of respect for what the honor represents… Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation's values, freedom and democracy.” https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/11/politics/bill-belichick-presidential-medal-of-freedom-spt-trnd/index.html
His refusal puts him in company with very few people. My search found three.
Dodgers catcher, Moe Berg, was fluent in many languages including German, Italian, and Japanese. During WWII he was a spy for the United States trying to find out if the Nazis were building an atom bomb. He declined the medal claiming his “‘humble contribution’” to WWII could not be divulged.”
Jacqueline Kennedy declined when President Johnson offered it to her in conjunction with President Kennedy since she worked with him to establish the design of the medal and its new parameters. She wanted to make her husband, recently deceased, the “focal point of the honor.” https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/12/us/politics/medal-of-freedom-declined.html and
Bill Belichick, well, we already know about that.
That’s it. Three.
While not wanting to appear judgmental, I disagree with this previous (I know, as of tomorrow) administration’s selection of honorees. I try to avoid quoting from Wikipedia, but this list of medal winners from the Kennedy administration forward looks pretty good. Scroll all the way to the bottom to find Trump’s list. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidential_Medal_of_Freedom_recipients
Winning is important. Being recognized for outstanding achievement is also important. Having the mettle to decline a medal, metal or otherwise, is possibly most important of all.
*mettle: the courage to carry on especially when the going gets tough https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/mettle
--stay curious! (and get vaccinated as soon as you can)