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Lucy's Presidential Medal of Freedom


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On July 6, 1989 Lucy's was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Below is the transcript from that ceremony. I edited it down to just the Lucy parts. Gary was there to accept and I linked the AP photos after the text.


I've really been looking forward to one of the most distinguished duties of this office: the privilege of presenting this nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And I will make a few comments about each of the recipients before going forward with the formal citation and the presentation of the medal.

The first Presidential Medal recipients were chosen by President Kennedy. But soon after his death, they were awarded by President Johnson, along with some of the choices made by President Kennedy. And some of the first winners included Marian Anderson, Felix Frankfurter and, of course, a posthumous medal to President Kennedy -- all American heroes. And today I find myself standing with four more heroes who embody the achievement, vision, and dedication that is the greatness of this country. You have left an indelible mark as you've enriched this nation, and America is grateful.

Each one here today, indeed all five recipients, are pioneers. General James Doolittle, a trailblazer in modern aviation. Ambassador George Kennan, truly a visionary who foresaw the future of Soviet-American relations. Senator Margaret Chase Smith, a bold achiever who stood alone against the tide of extremism. Secretary Douglas Dillon, an unparalleled public servant who shaped American foreign and economic policy. And finally, a fifth great American who is not with us, the late Lucille Ball, First Lady of Television to uncountable millions, worldwide.

Lucille Ball was known as the First Lady of Television -- one of America's greatest comediennes. The series "I Love Lucy" quickly made her a household name and kept generations of Americans laughing. In fact, according to TV Guide, her face was seen by more people more often than the face of any human being who ever lived. "I Love Lucy" -- that ran in over 80 countries, and the cumulative audience runs in the tens of billions. Who can forget Lucy? She was like everyone's next-door neighbor, only funnier. [Laughter] Her secret, she said, was to take everyday things and exaggerate them to funny absurdity -- and it worked. And she became an American success story and a brilliant businesswoman. Lucille Ball was a national treasure who brought laughter to us all. Love Lucy? Sure. This nation is grateful to her, and we will miss her dearly.

And now I am pleased to present the citations -- have the citations read and present the medals to our distinguished recipients.

Gary, can I ask you to come forward -- Mr. Gary Morton -- you know Bar.

A gifted comedienne known and loved by generations of audiences around the world, Lucille Ball left a lasting impression of American entertainment. For over 50 years, she warmed the hearts of millions with her humor, both in films and later on television, where no program was better named than "I Love Lucy." As president of her own production company, she set an example with her commitment to programming of quality for family enjoyment. Lucy's work continues to bring joy and laughter into American homes. And a grateful nation remembers her with love and appreciation.

And now I will present the medal to her husband, Gary Morton.

That concludes this brief, but heartfelt, ceremony. And we're delighted you all are here, and thank all of you for coming to honor these five individuals. Thank you very much.






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