A trip to Washington, D.C., might seem like the perfect time for Alan Page, the Minnesota Vikings Hall of Famer and the first African American associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court, to speak out about President Trump, elaborating on his previous comments that the current administration has “played to people’s worst fears” and “to people’s racial insecurities.”
But Page will put those feelings to the side for a bit Friday, when is he one of seven people scheduled to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Page’s feelings about Trump run strong; last year, he told the Pioneer Press that if he had the chance he wouldn’t be inclined to talk to Trump because “you’d probably get more reaction out of the paint on the wall.”
“He is who he is,” Page said then of Trump. “He knows what he’s doing. This is who he is.”
Receiving the medal, though, will transcend politics for Page, 73.
“That’s going to be an experience that I’m going to have to go through,” Page recently told the Pioneer Press. “My vision of the world is the same today as it was a year ago, and the year before that. But this medal, this honor is far more important than my personal beliefs, my personal likes and dislikes.
“The politics of it, that’s something that at this point is not important to me. What’s important is trying to make this world a better place, and literally, that is my focus.”
For Page, who played in the NFL from 1967 to 1981 and was a justice from 1993 to 2015, one focus is the Page Education Foundation, which he and his late wife, Diane, created in 1988. The foundation has raised over $14 million for college scholarships.
“My reaction [to getting the award] was pretty much the same reaction I’ve had with most of the honors I’ve received,” Page told the paper. “It was, ‘How does that help me do the things that Diane and I have worked so hard to do over time? How can it be used to lift other people up?'”
Three of Page’s four children will attend the ceremony, which will be especially poignant because Page’s wife died of breast cancer earlier this fall. “It breaks my heart that she can’t be a part of it,” he said.
And this week’s ceremony, his daughter Georgi pointed out, will provide a national platform for his work. The award recognizes “especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” This year’s winners also include Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, baseball legend Babe Ruth, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and humanitarian Miriam Adelson.
“Conventional wisdom might say, ‘Oh, this doesn’t really square with Alan Page,’” Georgi Page told the paper. “He has his eye on sort of a higher vision, and I think [with] this award he probably feels that it transcends politics and it’s important to put a message and a mission out there that will hopefully inspire people.”
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