Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Receive National Constitution Center's 2011 Liberty Medal

Jun 23, 2011, 10:20 ET from National Constitution Center

PHILADELPHIA, June 23, 2011, /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Constitution Center will award the 2011 Liberty Medal to U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Robert M. Gates, in honor of his five decades of distinguished service.  Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter joined National Constitution Center President and CEO David Eisner at an announcement ceremony this morning, where Liberty Medal sponsors and partners praised Secretary Gates as a widely respected leader who has built a legacy of defending freedom, promoting effective diplomacy and supporting American troops around the world.  

Secretary Gates will receive the medal in a public ceremony on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia.  Action News Anchorman Jim Gardner will host the live broadcast of the Liberty Medal ceremony on WPVI-TV/6abc.  The event also will be streamed live on

In his five-decade career in public service, Dr. Robert Gates has served eight presidents – in uniform, as the director of the CIA and as the civilian head of America's armed forces.  From the era of the Cold War to the complex challenges of the 21st century, he helped transform U.S. intelligence and military operations to meet emerging realities, and advocated for the safety and empowerment of American servicemen and women.  Having served both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, Dr. Gates is the only Secretary of Defense in U.S. history to serve presidents of different parties.  He is scheduled to retire on June 30, 2011.  

"Secretary Gates' steadfast commitment to the well-being of our men and women in uniform makes him an ideal recipient of this year's Liberty Medal," said President Bill Clinton, Chair of the National Constitution Center.  "As he embarks on his next chapter, we are pleased to honor his many years of distinguished service to our country."

"Secretary Gates has made unparalleled contributions to national security, defense and intelligence, while transcending party politics in order to put our nation's best interest first," said National Constitution Center President and CEO David Eisner.  "Secretary Gates sets an unsurpassed standard for what it means to make your country and your world better as a result of your service."

"I am deeply honored to be named to receive the Liberty Medal," said Secretary Robert Gates. "I look forward to coming to Philadelphia for the ceremony in September."

"Secretary Gates has proven himself to be a true leader – as Director of the CIA, president of Texas A&M University and as Secretary of Defense," Governor Tom Corbett said.  "This year's Liberty Medal could not go to a more worthy person; Secretary Gates has worked tirelessly to support liberty and democracy worldwide, and his efforts have greatly advanced our nation's safety and security."

"Secretary Gates is a true American hero who has dedicated his life to our country," said Mayor Michael A. Nutter.  "He conducts himself with a quiet dignity, but is vociferous and determined in his support for our troops and for causes of freedom around the world.  He is a most-deserving addition to the list of illustrious leaders who have been awarded the Liberty Medal, and Philadelphia will be proud to welcome him for the ceremony in September."

Dr. Robert M. Gates was sworn in as the 22nd Secretary of Defense on December 18, 2006.  

Following his term under President George W. Bush, he was asked to remain in that office by President Barack Obama.  His unprecedented transition from a Republican to a Democratic administration furthered his reputation as a pragmatist and a problem-solver who earns bipartisan support.  

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.  Described by TIME magazine as "candid and fearless," he has demanded accountability from military and civilians alike and won accolades for getting our soldiers all they need to succeed in the missions they have been given and to come home safely.

A tireless advocate for the welfare of American troops, Gates has been called the "ultimate soldiers' secretary."  Thinking of the troops as his own sons and daughters, he has made it a top priority to care for them and their families.  His push for the purchase of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) and the production of drones, cameras and sensors provided a safer way to conduct operations and saved the lives of countless American soldiers.  He also played an instrumental role in reducing the amount of time to get wounded soldiers from the battlefield to a hospital in Afghanistan.

Prior to his historic tenure as Secretary of Defense, Dr. Gates had an illustrious career at the Central Intelligence Agency, which he joined in 1966.  He spent nearly 27 years as an intelligence professional, including nearly nine years at the National Security Council, serving presidents of both political parties.  He served as Director of Central Intelligence from 1991 to 1993 and remains the only career officer in the CIA's history to rise from entry-level employee to director.  He served as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence from 1986 to 1989 and as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser at the White House from 1989 to 1991.  In 1967, Dr. Gates was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and served as an intelligence officer at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.  

Secretary Gates has been awarded the National Security Medal and the Presidential Citizens Medal, has twice received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and has three times received the CIA's highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.  

Dr. Gates and his wife, Becky, have been married over 40 years and have a grown son and daughter.  Gates is looking forward to returning to Washington state to be reunited with his family.

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.  Other past Liberty Medal winners include Nelson Mandela, Shimon Peres, Kofi Annan, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Bono.  Last year's Liberty Medal was awarded to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.  The Medal also has been awarded to organizations, including Doctors Without Borders and CNN International.  Six recipients of the Medal subsequently have won the Nobel Peace Prize.  

Ira Lubert of Independence Capital Partners will sponsor the Liberty Medal award in 2011, as he has for the past three years.  For the sixth year, Citizens Bank is the presenting sponsor for the President's Reception prior to the Liberty Medal ceremony.  Hublot, the luxury Swiss brand that brings the "Art of Fusion" to watchmaking, will co-sponsor the Liberty Medal gala for 2011-2012, and will create a limited edition "U.S. Liberty Bang" timepiece to celebrate the significance of the Liberty Medal.  This special watch will launch on September 22, 2011.  In addition, the number one timepiece of the 100 limited watches will be awarded to Secretary Gates during the Liberty Medal Gala Dinner.

The City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania also support the Liberty Medal.  

The National Constitution Center is America's first and only nonpartisan, nonprofit institution devoted to the U.S. Constitution.  Its mission is to illuminate constitutional ideals and inspire acts of citizenship.  Located on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia, the Center provides a cutting-edge museum, timely public programs, and dynamic educational resources.  The museum dramatizes the story of "We the People" through the stirring live performance Freedom Rising, the iconic Signers' Hall, featuring 42 life-sized bronze statues of the Framers, and more

than 100 interactive exhibits, films, photographs and rare artifacts.  As a national town hall for constitutional dialogue, the Center regularly engages political leaders, scholars, pundits and journalists of diverse viewpoints.  The Center also houses the Annenberg Center for Education and Outreach, which serves as the hub for national constitutional education and provides exceptional civic learning resources both onsite and online.  For more information, call 215.409.6700 or visit

EDITOR'S NOTE: A complete list of Liberty Medal winners follows.

Past Recipients of the Liberty Medal


 Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister


 Steven Spielberg


 Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet leader


 Bono and DATA (joint prize)


George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton, former U.S. Presidents (joint prize)


Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine


Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan


Sandra Day O'Connor, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court


Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State


Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General*


Dr. James Watson and Dr. Francis Crick, co-discoverers of the structure of DNA (joint prize)


Kim Dae Jung, President of South Korea*


Senator George J. Mitchell, Irish peace negotiator


CNN International


King Hussein I of Jordan and Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister of Israel (joint prize)


Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees


Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic


F.W. de Klerk, President of South Africa* and Nelson Mandela, President of the African National Congress* (joint prize)


Thurgood Marshall, former Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court


Oscar Arias, President of Costa Rica and Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)* (joint prize)


Jimmy Carter, former U.S. President*


Lech Walesa, founder of Solidarity, Poland

* Liberty Medal recipients who subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize  

SOURCE National Constitution Center