By John White
President Trump has awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Tiger Woods for his “comeback in sports” and life. With all due respect to Tiger, the medal is undeserved. Awarding it to Tiger is yet another instance of American culture being cheapened for political gain and the Medal being devalued from its original purpose.
According to Wikipedia, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President which recognizes people 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.” By that standard, winning the Masters tournament for golf does not qualify.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal are the highest civilian awards of the United States. The presidential medal was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. It features the head of the allegorical female figure atop the U.S. Capitol whose name is simply “Freedom.”
It superseded the Medal of Freedom established by President Harry S. Truman in 1945 to honor civilian service during World War II.
We are a nation based on the highest and most universal value: freedom. America is therefore known as the Fortress of Freedom. Our government’s primary purpose is to assure our freedom as individuals and to protect us from those who would abuse it or abolish it. All other government functions are secondary to that.
That is why the female figure atop the Capitol is a symbol of hope to people everywhere. That is also why our national bird is the eagle. It appears on the Great Seal of the United States and on our coins because the eagle is the most able to soar heavenward, its flight symbolic of the freedom we enjoy and the object of that freedom.
Freedom is central and fundamental to the American way of life. It is our essence, our raison d’etre. As President Ronald Reagan put it, “Freedom is the deepest and noblest aspiration of the human spirit.” Freedom serves the interests of everyone; it transforms lives and revitalizes societies. Freedom releases creative energy; it is the engine of all progress — technological, intellectual, cultural and spiritual. Freedom moves the hearts and minds of the American people. It is the key to unlocking our human potential, individually and collectively. And the human potential can change the human condition.
During World War II, my grandfather, John M. Weiss, received a letter of commendation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt for his contribution to the war effort. Grandpa John was a chemical engineer. His contribution was scaling up the process for producing melaic acid, an important ingredient for the production of munitions. Prior to that, it had to be created in chemistry laboratories in small batches.
Thanks to my grandfather, America could produce munitions rapidly in large quantities on a commercial basis. President Roosevelt thanked Grandpa John for what he did, and I’m sure that by today’s standard, it would have been recognized by the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Tiger is an outstanding athlete but his performance as a golfer is not “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Please, President Trump, uphold that standard for further presentations. It can help make America great again.
John White is an author and former naval officer who lives in Cheshire. He is active in local veterans affairs and was previously employed by Apollo 14 astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell at the Institute of Noetic Sciences for the study of psychic phenomena and the mind.