The Liberty Medal was established in 1988 to commemorate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. Given annually, the medal honors men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.
The Liberty Medal was first administered by the National Constitution Center in 2006, when Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were honored for their bipartisan humanitarian efforts on behalf of the victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia and the hurricanes on the Gulf Coast. Six recipients of the Medal subsequently have won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Here are eight reasons we chose Robert Gates as the 2011 recipient of the Liberty Medal.
- In his five decades of service to our nation, Dr. Robert M. Gates has defended freedom, promoted effective diplomacy and supported American troops around the world.
- He is a widely respected leader who has served eight presidents – in uniform, as the director of the CIA and as the civilian head of America’s armed forces.
- Having served Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Secretary Gates is the only Secretary of Defense in U.S. history to serve presidents of different parties.
- He is viewed in the United States and abroad as an adept manager who rose to the complex challenges of securing our nation in the 21st century.
- Secretary Gates has been a tireless advocate for the welfare of American troops and their families, successfully advocating for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and other hi-tech equipment to save American lives.
- As defense secretary, Dr. Gates oversaw the 2007 surge of forces in Iraq, leading to a dramatic drop in violence and paving the way for significant troop drawdowns in the years since. In Afghanistan, he implemented a similar surge in 2009, resulting in much improved security.
- Gates also has fought to end troubled weapons programs and to reduce overhead to make the department operate more efficiently, saving hundreds of billions of dollars that are being reinvested in higher military priorities, as well as deficit reduction.
- He played an instrumental role in reducing the amount of time to get wounded soldiers from the battlefield to a hospital in Afghanistan.
Read out liveblog of last year's Liberty Medal here.
Past winners include: Tony Blair, Bono and Jimmy Carter. See all the winners here.