Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom
November 7, 1985
The President. Welcome. The Medal of Freedom is our nation's highest honor for those outside the Armed Forces who've rendered outstanding service to their country. It acknowledges discipline, courage, high standards, and moral character. The three Americans we honor today have contributed among them more than a century of public service. They have been personally involved in answering the great questions of their day, questions of war or peace in a nuclear age. And today we underscore their impressive contributions with a token of appreciation from their fellow countrymen.
Paul Nitze brought unmatched experience and expertise to his current responsibilities. He has served so long and so faithfully in the highest councils of state that his presence has been almost taken for granted. Today we acknowledge for all the world that Paul is indeed an exceptional individual, a great man and a great public servant. And Paul Nitze played a key role in the design and implementation of the Marshall plan. He was a principal architect of our security strategy after World War II, helping us understand what it would take in resources and commitment to meet the new challenges emerging in the postwar world. Paul, we may need to call on you to give our current foreign assistance program the same boost that you gave to Harry Truman's.
Paul Nitze has held numerous positions of high responsibility -- Secretary of the Navy, Assistant Secretary of Defense, and Deputy Secretary of Defense. For the past 15 years he's played a special role in the Nation's search for ground arms policy. He worked in government to ensure our approach was right. When he saw things headed in the wrong direction, he worked outside the Government to alert his fellow citizens. Paul is now playing an indispensable role in our efforts to forge a bold and creative arms control policy. Peace and equilibrium are terms we associate with international affairs, and yet they also describe Paul Nitze, the man who seeks them. He is consistently shrewd, but never cynical; impressively erudite, yet never pedantic; immensely dignified, yet never stuffy; always hopeful, and yet ever realistic. We're happy, then, to honor him for what he has done and, even more, for what he is.
Now, we also honor Roberta and Albert Wohlstetter, two of the finest strategic analysts and security specialists our country has known. In saying this, however, we only begin to describe their work in helping citizens and statesmen to understand fundamental relationships in this nuclear age between technology, politics, history, and psychology. It's been the good fortune of our country to have these two brilliant people help us make sense of the unprecedented security problems we've faced in our modern age.
Roberta Wohlstetter, a generation ahead of her time, asserted her influence in areas dominated by and, in some cases, reserved for men. She rose above all obstacles and has had a profound influence. Her inquiries went to the heart of the system of our society, focusing on essential questions. Her analysis of the problems of terrorism, intelligence, and warning and, with Albert, the problem of nuclear deterrence broke new ground and opened new alternatives for policymakers. I daresay that she has blankly enjoyed posing the same penetrating questions to her husband that she has to the intellectual and political leaders of the country. And that is certainly one explanation for the clarity and persuasiveness of his own voluminous words on strategy, politics, and world affairs.
Albert Wohlstetter is a brilliant man with enormous strength of character. His intellectual integrity is renowned, and his analytical standards have been increasingly and unceasingly rigorous. He's been a steady hand in an uncertain time. His understanding on many levels has been indispensable to the well-being of the free world. In these last 30 years, Albert has been influential in helping to design and deploy our strategic forces -- an awesome task. He's sought ways to make our forces safer from attack, less destructive, and thereby less dangerous to us all. Many of the basic concepts and requirements for deterrence in the nuclear age -- analysis on which we've operated -- can be traced to this outstanding individual. And his work on the problem of nuclear proliferation gave us the insight we needed to better curb the irresponsible flow of sensitive material and technology.
Albert has always argued that in the nuclear age technological advances can, if properly understood and applied, make things better; but his point, and Roberta's, has been a deeper one than that. He has shown us that we have to create choices and, then, exercise them. The Wohlstetters have created choices for our society where others saw none. They've taught us that there is an escape from fatalism.
Those we honor today continue to make contributions. Their genius has made it possible for us to start on a new path which can free mankind of the fear of nuclear holocaust. These three people began their work in far different times, four decades ago when our national success was far from certain. Who would have foreseen the extraordinary achievements of the past generation, not the least of these a general peace, which has remained intact for 40 years. We praise these three extraordinary individuals who played a significant role in the most successful of all peace movements. They gave us strength through clarity; security through preparedness; and progress through intellect. They were the engineers and architects of a system that works and has served mankind well. They are the innovators who are leading mankind to the next step forward: Peace, based on protection, rather than retaliation.
Jonathan Swift, author of ``Gulliver's Travels,'' once wrote, ``Who'er excels in what we prize, appears a hero in our eyes.'' Well, these individuals are indeed American heroes.
I will now read the citations, which accompany our expression of gratitude for all that our honorees have done.
[At this point, the President read the citations which accompanied the medals. The texts of the citations follow.]
Paul H. Nitze:
In a career spanning nine Presidencies, Paul Nitze has made enormous contributions to the freedom and security of his country. Paul Nitze exemplifies the powers of mind, commitment, and character needed to fulfill America's world responsibilities. He was present at the creation of the strategy that has kept us at peace for 40 years. His deep understanding of the issues of war and peace, his discharge of high public assignments, and his advice to those in authority have been invaluable to our national well-being. He remains the most rigorous, demanding, and independent of analysts and the wisest of counselors.
Paul, congratulations, and thank you.
Ambassador Nitze. Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, I'm deeply honored at having received and you having awarded me the Medal for Freedom. There is, I think, the task that gives the greatest opportunity for development and for doing things is service in this government. You, today, have really a marvelous team helping you on foreign policy and national security, led by Secretary [of State] Shultz and Bud McFarlane, but they're also supported by an able team of negotiators, a most able team of negotiators, in Geneva. And we all thank you for your leadership.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Thank you.
Now, Roberta and Albert Wohlstetter -- one citation, but two medals.
Participants in the nuclear era's most momentous events, Roberta and Albert Wohlstetter have shaped the ideas and deeds of statesmen, and have helped create a safer world. Over four decades, they have marshaled logic, science, and history and enlarged our democracy's capacity to learn and to act. Through their work, we have seen that mankind's safety need not rest on threats to the innocent, and that nuclear weapons need not spread inexorably. Their powers of thought and exposition are, in themselves, among the Free World's best defenses.
I want to make sure I have these right. Albert, to you. All right.
Mrs. Wohlstetter. Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. And now -- all right. Thank you both, and congratulations.
Mrs. Wohlstetter. Thank you. I'm dazzled and very deeply honored. Thank you very much.
Mr. Wohlstetter. Mr. President, I receive this great honor not only for myself but for the brilliant and devoted research men and students with whom I've been lucky enough to work for nearly 35 years. I take particular pride in being given this Medal of Freedom from a President who's stressed that it's freedom that we're defending, that we have to defend it without bringing on a holocaust that would end both free and unfree societies. I'm most grateful and honored, Mr. President. Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 11:05 a.m. in the East Room at the White House.