WASHINGTON – Late last year, President Barack Obama referred to then-U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar as a rock star in parts of the former Soviet Union where legislation co-authored by Lugar has dismantled thousands of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Lugar will share the spotlight today with high-profile figures from politics and popular culture when Obama presents 16 people with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony.
Recipients will include media magnate Oprah Winfrey, country music’s Loretta Lynn, baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and former President Bill Clinton.
They form the 50th class for the nation’s highest civilian honor, begun in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy. This year’s ceremony comes just two days before the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.
In announcing the latest recipients in August, the White House called Lugar an internationally respected statesman best known for his bipartisan leadership and decades-long commitment to reducing the threat of nuclear weapons.
Lugar, who lost the 2012 Republican primary election and with it his bid for a seventh term in the Senate, declined a request for an interview ahead of today’s ceremony.
Spokesman Conor Burns said in a recent email that Lugar had no comment apart from the statement he put out after the announcement of the award.
Lugar in August paid tribute to his wife, their four sons and his parents. He also said he was grateful to God for leading me into paths of helping to make a constructive difference for his state, nation and Indianapolis, where he was a two-term mayor before his 1976 election to the Senate.
Posthumous recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom include a longtime Lugar colleague, Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, as well as astronaut Sally Ride.