Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch became one of the latest recipients of the nation’s highest civilian decoration on Friday — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
It’s not an honor to be brushed aside.
The medal as it stands today was established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy for citizens who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Hatch now joins the list of other notable recipients, which includes U.K. Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, the crew of Apollo 13, former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and former national security adviser Colin Powell.
Regardless of how one perceives Hatch’s 42-year political career, he is a fitting choice for the honorable distinction. As the longest-serving Republican U.S. senator in history and third in line for the presidency, Hatch has worked with every presidential administration since Jimmy Carter sat in the White House, and he routinely made alliances with his Democratic colleagues to pass some of the most enduring pieces of legislation of the past few decades.
Hatch may well be remembered best as the unlikely best friend of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., with whom he worked to pass landmark bills such as the Children's Health Insurance Program, the Orphan Drug Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act. Upon entering the Senate, the two fought vigorously until one day they discovered their common ground. Getting bills approved by both parties became much easier once these two senators leveraged their shared commitment to certain principles.
That is the kind of public service that deserves recognition, and it should be illuminated as an example for current lawmakers of what can happen when vitriol gives way to humility and mutual understanding.9 comments on this story
Through the years, Hatch has helped pass hundreds of other bills, proving his commitment to serving the country and the people of Utah. No one can question his work ethic. “This is a hard job, if you do it right,” Hatch told the Deseret News. “If you don’t want to do it right, you can have a pretty easy time; just stroll around and act important. That’s easy.” It’s clear Hatch didn’t just stroll around.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is one of the few ways that, traditionally, a president can exercise self-expression. Critics can look at the president’s choices as a reflection of partisan loyalty instead of focusing on the merits of the honoree. But in this case, it’s hard to dispute the decades of contributions and hard work Hatch has given to his country. He deserves a medal.