This memo is to inform the American people that I will be resigning from my post in the Executive Branch of the United States government immediately. Under the current political climate, I am no longer an effective representation of inspiration and hope that I once was.
As you are aware, I’ve held this position since 1963, when President John F. Kennedy created it with the intention of recognizing individuals “for especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
In my fifty-seven year tenure, I’ve had the pleasure of being awarded to a plethora of distinguished servicemen, civilians, musicians, artists, journalists, etc. Names such as Walter Cronkite, Rosa Parks, Colin Powell (twice).
Never in my long tenure have I ever felt diminished in any capacity by either the President that determined who I would be awarded to, or the individuals who received me. One could of course quibble with the selections of the President’s choices from a partisan viewpoint, but never were there any moral or ethical questions surrounding the choices. In short, each recipient in my nearly six decades was worthy of the distinction.
Until recently, when the President awarded me to some shock jock at a recent State of the Union Address. To be used as a political weapon – in what was already a highly partisan re-election speech – was simply the last straw.
No offense to either one of those guys, but what is going on here? I shouldn’t be awarded to anyone who spends his time spouting racist views that serves only to incite anger and hatred towards people. Perhaps these two individuals aren’t entirely responsible for the perilousness with which we find ourselves as a country right now, but they certainly aren’t free from blame either.
I cannot, in good faith, continue in my position believing that I was only being given to someone because he is a staunch ally of the President. That isn’t what President Kennedy had in mind back in 1963.
I fear this creates a dangerous precedent, and based on the diminishment of my honor, I am resigning as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, effective immediately. I’ve had a wonderful run. I’ve met amazing individuals and I’ve enjoyed making a difference in the lives of so many.
I want to leave you with a warning from the musician Bob Dylan, a recipient of me back in 2012. He said, “It’s easy to see without looking too far that not much is really sacred.”
The Presidential Medal of Freedom