Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich., CAS ’49, LAW ’52), the longest-serving member of Congress, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the White House on Nov. 24.
Dingell, who has served in the House of Representatives since 1955 and represents Michigan’s 12th Congressional District, announced his retirement earlier this year. He succeeded his father, John Dingell Sr., in office and will be followed by his wife, Deborah Dingell (SFS ’75, GRD ’98), who won the seat Nov. 4, making her the first woman to be elected to the seat of a living, retired husband in Congress. Dingell holds the record for the longest uninterrupted tenure in Congressional history.
“There are few words that could accurately describe my thoughts and feelings in receiving this wonderful honor,” Dingell said in a statement.“It is especially meaningful to me to receive this recognition alongside such a distinguished and diverse group of individuals that truly represents the ideals and values that have made this nation great. I am most humbled by this recognition, and I thank President Obama for his kindness in awarding me this prestigious honor.”
President John F. Kennedy established the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 as the United States’ highest civilian award. Over 500 people have previously received the award, and 19 civilians will join their ranks on Monday, including Meryl Streep, Stevie Wonder and Tom Brokaw. Last year’s awardees included President Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.
Dingell joins the three of members of the Georgetown community to recently win the award. Jan Karski (G ’52, H ’83), a World War Two resistance fighter and Georgetown scholar, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the Mortara Distinguished Professor of Diplomacy at Georgetown, won the award in April 2012. Former senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), a Georgetown public policy professor, won in 2013.
“I look forward to presenting these 19 bold, inspiring Americans with our nation’s highest civilian honor,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world.”
On Monday, Dingell was also awarded the LBJ Liberty and Justice for All Award from the Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation, along with Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). Dingell stood next to Johnson when the then-president signed the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law after he fought vigorously for the bill, and Dingell has since advocated for environmental regulation and health care legislation.
The 88-year-old representative will leave office at the end of his term in December.