President Presents Medals to Honor the Contributions of Six

By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 20, 2008

President Bush awarded the nation's highest civilian medal yesterday to six Americans, including retired Marine Gen. Peter Pace and former Clinton administration official Donna E. Shalala, hailing contributions that he said have helped transform the U.S. military, promote better care for wounded service members, advance human rights and improve public health.

Among those who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House was Annette Lantos, who accepted the award on behalf of her husband, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), who died in February. Bush praised the Hungarian-born Lantos, former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress. "Tom was at the forefront of virtually every human rights battle over nearly three decades in the Congress," Bush said.

The award "recognizes outstanding individuals who have been leaders in their chosen fields, have led lives of vision and character and have made especially meritorious contributions to our nation and the world," Bush told about 250 guests.

Other recipients included Benjamin S. Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore; Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda; and Laurence H. Silberman, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Bush hailed Carson, 56, as "one of the world's leading neurosurgeons." In 1987, Carson performed the first successful operation to separate twins joined at the back of the head.

Fauci, 67, an immunologist, was lauded as a leader in the fight against HIV and AIDS. His citation said he brought "hope and healing to tens of millions" in rich and poor nations.

Bush praised Silberman, 72, as a "guardian of the Constitution." Silberman also co-chaired a commission that investigated the intelligence community's prewar claims about Iraq's weapons programs.

In honoring Shalala, 67, who was secretary of health and human services for President Bill Clinton, Bush cited her work on a commission that examined care for wounded service members. She "has worked to ensure that we provide the best possible care for America's veterans," Bush said.

Pace, 62, was an architect of the Iraq war and the first Marine to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Bush called him a "trusted adviser in a time of war."

Opponents of the war have criticized past Medals of Freedom for officials who played key roles in the run-up to the war, such as former CIA director George J. Tenet. Asked about the criticism, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Bush was "incredibly honored" to give Pace the medal.

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