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Lugar wins coveted Medal of Freedom

Senate veteran crusaded to reduce nuclear arsenal


Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana is among 16 people who were named recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday.

The White House announced that Lugar, a longtime foreign policy leader, will join former President Bill Clinton, media magnate Oprah Winfrey, country music singer Loretta Lynn and former baseball star Ernie Banks in the 2013 class. The medal, now in its 50th year, is the nation’s highest civilian honor.

“I was inspired to think of ‘service above self’ by loving parents, Marvin and Bertha Lugar, and have been supported for many years by my sweetheart, Char, and our four talented and devoted sons: Mark, Robert, John, and David,” Lugar, 81, said in a written statement.

“I am grateful to God for leading me into paths of helping to make a constructive difference in my city of Indianapolis, my state of Indiana, and the safety and security of my great country,” he said.

Ex-Lugar aide and former Fort Wayne resident Mark Helmke said in an email: “It’s fitting that Lugar and Ernie Banks receive this honor together. Strong, dedicated, hardworking and humble men denied the one prize they most deserved.”

Banks never won a World Series title playing with the Chicago Cubs from 1953 to 1971, and Lugar’s campaign for the presidency fizzled in 1996.

Other Medal of Freedom recipients include women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, former University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, and Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post.

“This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world,” President Barack Obama said in a written statement.

The awards will be presented at a White House ceremony this year.

Lugar, a Republican from Indianapolis, left office in January after a 36-year career in the Senate. He and former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia authored 1991 legislation that has dismantled thousands of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the former Soviet Union.

“An internationally respected statesman, he is best known for his bipartisan leadership and decades-long commitment to reducing the threat of nuclear weapons,” the White House said of Lugar.

Lugar heads The Lugar Center, a nonprofit think tank on global issues, including food and energy security and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He also teaches and lectures at the University of Indianapolis, Indiana University and Georgetown University.

In April, he was knighted by the British ambassador to the U.S. on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II. In May, he received Germany’s Grand Cross of the Order of Merit.

Seeking a seventh Senate term, Lugar lost the 2012 Republican nomination to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who lost the general election to Democrat Joe Donnelly. Mourdock’s campaign insisted Lugar was too moderate, calling him “Obama’s favorite Republican.”

Other medal recipients include former Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii; astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; and civil and gay rights activist Bayard Rustin. They will be honored posthumously.

Other recipients include psychologist Daniel Kahneman and chemist Maria Molina, each of whom received a Nobel Prize; Grammy-winning jazz musician Arturo Sandoval; Patricia Wald, the first female judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; and civil rights leader C.T. Vivian.