13 January 2009
At his last ceremonial appearance as U.S. President, George Bush honored three men who have been among his staunchest allies abroad during his eight years in office.
The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor awarded by the President of the United States. And in one of his last acts in office, George Bush presided as medals were draped around the necks of three men who stood with him on the world stage.
They are former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, perhaps Mr. Bush's strongest allies in Iraq. Also honored was his closest friend and ally in Latin America, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
"Each of these gentlemen we honor today has his own style and personality. Each has amassed distinctions and achievements that belong to him alone. Yet all of them have shown a firm adherence to the principles of freedom and democratic values," said Mr. Bush.
The three recipients did not make remarks at the awards ceremony. It fell to Mr. Bush to describe their deeds and approach to governing.
"They are the sort of guys who look you in the eye and tell you the truth and keep their word. In lengthy service, they proved to be leaders of character and fortitude," he said. "They were warm friends of the United States of America."
Mr. Bush said the opportunity to work with these three leaders has been one of the great satisfactions of his time as president. He said they have his respect, and his admiration.