IRI Honors Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger with Freedom Award

The International Republican Institute (IRI) honored former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger with its 2009 Freedom Award for his contribution to the security and progress of the United States.  IRI Chairman Senator John McCain presented the award to Secretary Kissinger at a dinner in Washington on October 8.  Former Secretary of State and IRI Board Member Lawrence Eagleburger also spoke at the event, which marked IRI’s 25th anniversary.

Prior to the award presentation, Secretary Eagleburger spoke about his time working for Secretary Kissinger.  Recalling Secretary Kissinger’s role in shaping foreign policy, Eagleburger said, “In my judgment the greatest Secretary of State of the 20th century, and perhaps both the 19th and 20th centuries, is sitting with us now and we’ll never see his like again.”

In presenting the award, Senator McCain praised Secretary Kissinger’s leadership in foreign policy.  “Henry Kissinger is a greatly accomplished statesman whose past service and continued council notably influences the debate and direction of American foreign policy.  We give him our Freedom Award for his contributions to the security and progress of the United States and the continued success of our democracy.”

After accepting his award, Secretary Kissinger thanked Senator McCain stating, “I think the task of a leader is to take a society from where it is to where it hasn’t been and that takes, above all, moral courage, because that is a lonely road; and I know no national leader who has exemplified this more consistently and more courageously then Senator McCain.”  

Following the award presentation, Secretary Kissinger and Niall Ferguson, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, who is working on a biography of Secretary Kissinger, took part in a conversation discussing current foreign policy issues facing the United States.  Ferguson asked for the Secretary’s insights and thoughts on Afghanistan, Iran and U.S.-China relations.

IRI Board Member Gahl Hodges Burt opened the evening recalling her time working for Secretary Kissinger, jokingly saying, “He made every boss after that very easy.”  She also recognized some of IRI’s other guests including Wilfried Martens, President of the European People’s Party, and Dmitri Shashkin, Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance for the Republic of Georgia.

Lorne W. Craner, IRI President, also spoke at the dinner highlighting the role of IRI in the past quarter century in helping reformers gain and solidify democracy in their countries.

Fleeing Nazi persecution, Secretary Kissinger’s family immigrated to the United States in 1938.  He became a naturalized citizen in 1943.  During the war he served in the United States Army in the 84th Infantry Division in France and Germany.  He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1950 and received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University in 1952 and 1954.  From 1954 until 1969, he was a member of the faculty of Harvard University, in both the Department of Government and the Center for International Affairs.  He was Director of the Harvard International Seminar from 1952 to 1969.

Secretary Kissinger was sworn in on September 22, 1973, as the 56th Secretary of State, a position he held until January 20, 1977.  He also served as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from January 20, 1969, until November 3, 1975, the only person to concurrently hold both the Secretary of State and National Security Advisor positions.  During Secretary Kissinger’s tenure, the Vietnam War ended with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize; tensions with the Soviet Union were relaxed under the policy of détente; and the United States established ties to China.  In 1977, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, for his service to the country.  In 1986, he was one of 10 naturalized citizens awarded the Medal of Liberty by President Ronald Reagan.   

After leaving government, Secretary Kissinger continued to serve his country.  In 1983, President Reagan appointed him to chair the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America.  From 1984 to 1990, he served as a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.  From 1985 to 1989, he served on the Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy.  From 1986 to 1988, he was a member of the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy of the National Security Council and Defense Department.  He is currently a member of the Defense Policy Board.

At present, Secretary Kissinger is Chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc., an international consulting firm.  He is also a member of the International Council of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.; Chairman of the International Advisory Board of American International Group, Inc.; a Counselor to and Trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; an Honorary Governor of the Foreign Policy Association; and an Honor Member of the International Olympic Committee.  Among his other activities, Secretary Kissinger is a member of the Board of Directors of ContiGroup Companies, Inc. and an Advisor to the Board of Directors of American Express Company.  He is also a member of the Advisory Board of Forstmann Little and Co.; a Trustee Emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; a Director Emeritus of Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc.; and a Director of the International Rescue Committee.

Secretary Kissinger is the author of numerous books and has published numerous articles on United States foreign policy, international affairs and diplomatic history.

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