Medal of Freedom

President Clinton, right, awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to George McGovern during ceremonies in the East Room of the White House on Aug. 9, 2000, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Following are the comments President Bill Clinton delivered Aug. 9, 2000, while presenting the Medal of Freedom to George McGovern.

“His roots lie deep in the South Dakota soil, in small-town farms and the faith of his father, a Methodist pastor. After more than a half-century in public life, George McGovern still draws on those teachings and traditions, and he still imparts them to the rest of us by the power of his example, the courage of his convictions and his proud legacy of public service.

“Long before he became a congressman or senator or a U.S. ambassador, he became a hero. His brave exploits in the skies above Europe earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross, and more important to him, the gratitude of the men he brought safely to the ground. Returning home, he taught history, and then set out to make a little history himself — first, winning a seat in Congress, then a few years later creating the Food For Peace program, one of the great achievements of the Kennedy era.

“By the time he ran for President in 1972, Sen. McGovern was not only a hero in war, but a stalwart voice for peace in Vietnam. Hillary and I and several others in this room, including the National Security Advisor, Mr. Berger, and Eli Segal, who started AmeriCorps and our welfare-to-work partnership, were honored to embrace his conviction that we could move our country forward.

“For decades, his conviction never wavered. Nor has his early commitment to bringing food to the hungry. Today he serves as our Ambassador to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, and he has pledged to feed half a billion of the world’s ill-fed.

“Sen. McGovern and Sen. Dole have come together to persuade me, along with Congressman McGovern and Sen. McGovern’s Senator, Tom Daschle, that the United States should lead the world to get one nutritious meal to every child in every poor country in the world. And I just announced a couple of days ago our first $300 million contribution to that goal.

“This initiative could not only feed hungry children, but lead to the enrollment of millions of children not now in school, especially girls in poor countries. So, George McGovern’s work continues.”