Clinton honors Taylor, Ali, Aaron, others with final presidential medals
WASHINGTON (AP) – Giving out the last awards of his presidency, President Clinton on Monday honored people as diverse as actor Elizabeth Taylor and boxer Muhammad Ali with the Presidential Citizens Medal, saying, ”The greatest title any of us can hold is that of citizen.”
Clinton presented the medals, established by President Nixon in 1969 to recognize exemplary service, to 28 people in a White House ceremony. ”What a great picture of America we have here today,” the president said.
Clinton praised all the honorees, including:
-Hank Aaron, who in 1974 broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. ”His courage and dignity have left a lasting mark on more than just baseball,” the president said.
-Muhammad Ali, former heavyweight boxing champion. ”Now and forever, he is the greatest,” gushed Clinton, who hugged the three-time champion.
-Actress Elizabeth Taylor, who Clinton called ”American royalty” and said, ”We thank her for sharing her talent and her heart.”
The award recipients, while happy about their medals, indicated they were dismayed that it signified the end of the Clinton presidency. Aaron, also a champion of civil rights, said he was sad to see Clinton ”retired” and was wary of the incoming Bush administration.
”I’ve been spoiled because of Bill Clinton. I think most African Americans have been spoiled because Bill Clinton has done what’s right,” he said. ”So until I see what happens, I guess I’m going to be like most Americans. I’m going to be afraid, I’m going to be frightened until something happens that’s good for all of us.”
Three awards were given posthumously, to Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, former White House counsel Charles F.C. Ruff and Chicago Defender publisher John H.H. Sengstacke.
”I thank him so much for not forgetting Ron,” said Alma Brown, who accepted the award in her husband’s place. ”That’s the one thing I’ll always remember about him, that he never forgets. He never forgets who was there with him at the beginning and he remembered this right up to the end.”
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