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Remarks on Presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Kate Smith in Raleigh, North Carolina

October 26, 1982

The President. Well, I'm delighted to visit North Carolina to pay tribute to one of the Tar Heel State's most distinguished residents -- a lady who is very dear to Americans everywhere.

Kate Smith is one of America's great singers of this or any other century. Her splendid voice alone has earned her a place in the history books. But it's also won her a place in our hearts because of the extra something that reaches out to the spirit as well as to the ear of the listener.

Kate always sang from her heart. And so, we always listened with our hearts. It's been truly said that one of the most inspiring things that our GI's in World War II in Europe and the Pacific, and later in Korea and Vietnam, ever heard was the voice of Kate Smith. The same is true for all of us.

But I think the citation for Kate's Medal of Freedom -- the highest civilian honor that our nation can bestow -- says it all.

[At this point, the President read the citation, the text of which follows:]

The voice of Kate Smith is known and loved by millions of Americans, young and old. In war and peace, it has been an inspiration. Those simple but deeply moving words, ``God bless America,'' have taken on added meaning for all of us because of the way Kate Smith sang them. Thanks to her they have become a cherished part of all our lives, an undying reminder of the beauty, the courage and the heart of this great land of ours. In giving us a magnificent, selfless talent like Kate Smith, God has truly blessed America.

So, Kate, on behalf of a grateful nation, it's my privilege to present to you the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an honor that you have earned many times over through your singing, charitable work, love of country, and by being an inspiration to all of us.

Helena M. Steene. Mr. President, as Miss Smith's sister, may I speak for her?

The President. Yes.

Mrs. Steene. [Inaudible] -- in saying, thank you very much. This is my sister. This is also one of the greatest ladies I have ever known. She has always -- [inaudible] -- for her country. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:33 p.m. in Room B at the Raleigh Civic Center.

Following the presentation ceremony, the President attended a fundraising reception for North Carolina Republican candidates in the civic center. He then returned to Washington, D.C.