The U.S. Presidential Citizens Medal was presented Aug. 30 to President Ezra Taft Benson for "a lifetime of dedicated service to country, community, church and family."
Brent Scowcroft, assistant to President George Bush for national security affairs and a former Utahn, presented the medal on behalf of President Bush, who expressed his regrets for not being able to present it in person.The White House announced the award in July. It was the first made by President Bush since he took office.
"President Bush is honoring you as one of the most distinguished Americans of your time," Scowcroft told the 90-year-old Church leader, who was U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1953 to 1960.
"This is an unusual medal," he said. "It was established in 1969 by executive order for the purpose of recognizing citizens of the United States who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or fellow citizens.
"President Bush feels that your long and distinguished life of service to your country, to its citizens, and, indeed, to all mankind is uniquely representative of the values that this medal is designed to recognize," Scowcroft told President Benson.
President Benson replied, "I don't merit this honor." Scowcroft countered, "Yes, you certainly do. Richly so."
The text of the citation accompanying the medal reads:
"The President of the United States of America awards this Presidential Citizens Medal to Ezra Taft Benson. A lifetime of dedicated service to your country, community, church and family make Ezra Taft Benson one of the most distinguished Americans of his time. As agriculture adviser to Presidents Roosevelt and Eisenhower, leader of his Church, and 60-year friend of the Boy Scouts of America, he has worked tirelessly. His devotion to family and commitment to the principles of freedom are an example for all Americans."