After already receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, the former MK arrived at the White House Friday, accompanied by his wife and daughters, where he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
"Americans first came to know Natan Sharansky as a voice for freedom inside an empire of tyranny. Today the Soviet Union is history, but the world still knows the name Sharansky,” United States President George W. Bush said at the ceremony.
Bush continued, “He remains, above all, an eloquent champion for liberty and democracy. Natan reminds us that every soul carries the desire to live in freedom, and that freedom has a unique power to lift up nations, transform regions, and secure a future for peace.”
“Natan Sharansky is a witness to that power, and his testimony brings hope to those who still live under oppression. We honor Natan Sharansky for his life of courage and conviction,” the president concluded.
Before leaving the White House, Sharansky told Ynet, “It is flattering and very exciting. I was a big surprise for me, but I want to believe it expresses a special commitment by the American people and the president to values of freedom democracy, which I have spent my entire life fighting for.”
Popular in Washington
Sharansky is quite familiar with the White House, and not only because of ceremonies. Since leaving the former Soviet Union, where he was a “prisoner of Zion”, Sharansky has been invited to the white house to meet with every US president since Ronald Regan, as well as state secretaries and other senior officials.
The fact that senior American officials would want to meet with a man who did not hold an official title or political status in his country was not insignificant. Decision makers in Washington admire Sharansky’s history as a prisoner of Zion, as well as his knowledge of the cold war and the situation in the Middle East.