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Justice Scalia awarded Medal of Freedom

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Calling him a towering intellect, a brilliant wit and a fierce devotee of the country’s founding principles, President Donald Trump awarded the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and six other Americans with the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Scalia’s wife, Maureen, accepted the medal on his behalf at the White House ceremony Nov. 16. She was joined by their nine children as well as members of the Supreme Court, including Scalia’s longtime friend Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Scalia’s replacement on the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch.

“Justice Scalia transformed the American legal landscape, igniting a national movement to apply the original meaning of the Constitution as written. Through nearly 900 written opinions and more than 30 years on the bench, Justice Scalia defended the American system of government and preserved the foundations of American freedom,” said Trump. “His presence is dearly missed by all.”

Scalia’s son Christopher tweeted, “Very proud that my father will receive the Medal of Freedom. That he’s getting it with Elvis is icing on the cake.”

“It was a great honor to have my dad’s years of public service honored in that way,” said Father Paul D. Scalia, episcopal vicar for clergy. “That my mom could receive it is important because she was his partner all those years. They were in that together.”

Other recipients included philanthropist Dr. Miriam Adelson and Sen. Orrin Hatch, who represented Utah for 42 years and sponsored more bills that have become law than any living legislator. Two NFL players were honored — Vietnam War veteran and Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach, and Justice Alan Page, the first African American judge on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Baseball legend Babe Ruth also was honored. “(He) lived from 1895 to 1948, learning the game of baseball from Catholic brothers at his orphanage,” said Trump. “At the age of 19, he was signed by the Boston Red Sox as a pitcher, and soon became one of the best pitchers in baseball. To this day, his career slugging percentage of 690 remains the highest in the history of baseball.”

Trump was surprised to learn Ruth had not received the Medal of Freedom before.

“This award should have been given to him a long time ago. I said, ‘You mean Babe Ruth hasn’t gotten it?’ We took care of that real fast.”

The final recipient was “The King” — Elvis Presley. Trump introduced the rock star’s biography with a clip of Presley's Gospel rendition of “How Great Thou Art,” and then recounted his own encounter with the singer.

“I was there once in Las Vegas, at the Hilton. The fans were ripping the place apart, screaming. They were going crazy. And they announced, ‘Elvis has left the house.’ If they didn’t say that, I think I’d still be there.”

Father Scalia most enjoyed the reception with recipients and their families. “To me the best part was just listening to Roger Staubach and Alan Page talk about football. That was extraordinary,” he said. “(The group represented) a pretty great cross section of American life."


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018