Hoover fellow Edward Teller has been awarded the nation's highest civil honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Teller and ten other distinguished Americans, including Hoover overseer James Q. Wilson, were honored in a ceremony at the White House on July 23.
"Edward Teller helped to shape the course of human history," President George W. Bush said, presenting the medal honoring Teller for his "long life of brilliant achievements and patriotic service.
"He has been a strong advocate for national defense and the cause of human freedom. The United States honors him for his excellence in science and in education, and his unwavering commitment to the nation."
Teller "applied his disciplined mind to the most urgent task America had ever faced," Bush said of Teller's work on the Manhattan Project. The president commended Teller for his "pivotal role in ending the cold war," through his work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, his cofounding of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, his work at the University of California and the Hoover Institution, and his central role on the Strategic Defense Initiative.
"I am deeply grateful for the great honor of receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom," Teller said. "In my long life I had to face some difficult decisions and found myself often in doubt whether I acted the right way. Thus the medal is a great blessing for me, and I am particularly happy to receive it from a president whom I admire for his firm action in difficult circumstances, carried out with patience and absolute minimal use of force. This is what I mean by saying 'Thank you, Mr. President.'"
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, who last year personally awarded Teller with the Gold Award, the Department of Energy's highest honor, said, "Dr. Teller is a remarkable person. He is regarded as one of the giant figures of the 20th century, whose contributions to winning both World War II and the Cold War are immeasurable.
"But I also believe that Edward Teller should be regarded as one of the most important figures of the 21st century. His unwavering support for scientific education has inspired countless men and women to pursue lives in science."
Teller joins a distinguished group of Hoover fellows who have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, including Milton Friedman, William J. Perry, Ronald Reagan, and George P. Shultz.
James Q. Wilson, a member of the Hoover Institution Board of Overseers, was also honored at the White House ceremony. Wilson, the Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, has written influential works on the nature of human morality, government, and criminal justice issues.
"He has advised United States Presidents while encouraging character and personal responsibility among our citizens," Bush said in presenting Wilson the medal. "The United States honors this teacher writer, and scholar for his numerous contributions to our nation's social and civic life."
A noted social commentator, Wilson has taught at Harvard University and the University of California, Los Angeles. His books include Varieties of Police Behavior, The Moral Sense, and The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families.
Other recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom included Jacques Barzun, a former Columbia University professor and dean and author and scholar of modern European thought and culture; Julia Child, master chef, television pioneer, and author; Roberto Clemente Walker, Hall of Fame baseball player; Van Cliburn, concert pianist; Václav Havel, playwright, political activist, and former president of the Czech Republic; Charlton Heston, Academy Award-winning actor; R. David Thomas, restauranteur and philanthropist; Byron Raymond White, who served for 31 years as a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States; and John R. Wooden, a record-setting basketball coach for the University of California, Los Angeles.
The Hoover Institution, founded at Stanford University in 1919 by Herbert Hoover, who went on to become the 31st president of the United States, is an interdisciplinary research center for advanced study on domestic public policy and international affairs, with an internationally renowned archives.