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By Linda Bloom
Richard Lugar and the late Daniel Inouye — lifelong United Methodists —have been recognized as the type of public servants who have “strengthened our nation.”
The two United Methodists, who both had lengthy careers as U.S. senators, were among the 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom lauded by President Barack Obama in a Nov. 20 ceremony at the White House.
Obama noted that this year’s presentation marked 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the executive order establishing the nation’s highest civilian honor.
“I hope we carry away from this a reminder of what JFK understood to be the essence of the American spirit,” Obama told the gathering.
Lugar, 81, a member of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, was first elected to the Senate in 1976. The former Republican legislator has credited his parents with instilling his Methodist faith and the values that he tries to live out through faith and action.
His Senate work in foreign relations, which included sponsorship of the 1991 Nunn-Lugar Act to eliminate stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, was highlighted by the President.
Obama remembered when Lugar took him, then a junior senator from Illinois, “under his wing,” but also joked about being exposed to unexploded landmines and mortar shells when traveling with the Hoosier lawmaker to visit Cold War arsenals in the former Soviet Union.