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Medal of Freedom
Billie Jean King
(WTT)
 
August 13, 2009

The White House and the Medal of Freedom

Long ago I learned not to dwell on the past and to keep looking and moving forward, but my experiences of Wednesday, August 12, 2009, will forever be one of those moments in my life where I look back with fond memories and look ahead with great inspiration.
 
Receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom is definitely a highlight in my life, but to be able to share the White House ceremony with my family, especially with Ilana and my mother, Betty, was unbelievable.  My mother has had a tough year with her health, but yesterday she was so full of life and energy that was contagious.
 
It was also rewarding to watch our longtime friends, Ed and Peggy Woolard beam with pride throughout the ceremony.  The Woolards have been to The White House several times, but this day was special for them.  Some five years ago they began the lengthy process of helping make the Presidential Medal of Freedom a reality for me. 
 
For as much as the ceremony itself was really ceremonial, there was a calmness and a closeness among the recipients.  Maybe part of it was because we didn’t have to speak – which was a relief to me personally.
 
The real highlight for me was to receive this award at the same time as some of my heroes and sheroes – especially the late Harvey Milk (a pioneer in the LGBT community), Sandra Day O’Connor (the first woman Supreme Court Justice and a woman who broke barriers every day of her life), Sen. Ted Kennedy (a man who has dedicated his life to helping the underserved and is committed to preserving Title IX) and Muhammad Yunus (a man who I think is creating real change in our world on a global level through microfinancing). I was especially excited to be seated next to Joseph Medicine Crow, the last living Plains Indian war chief, as there is Native American blood in my own ancestry.
 
The weekend before the trip to Washington, D.C., I received a bracelet from a young man named Josh Hagar of Austin, Texas, at the Advanta WTT Junior Nationals in San Diego.  The blue bracelet was inscribed with the saying “Play Tennis. Save Lives.” and I thought it was especially appropriate to wear on this special day.  I’m not sure playing tennis has saved my life, but it has definitely given -- and rewarded me – with a wonderful life. 
 
So now we move on.  Today, I’m counting my blessings for all of the people who have shared their lives and life lessons with me and who guided me to this moment.  I’ve learned things from the experiences of August 12, 2009, and I remain more convinced that if we all work together we will make a difference in the lives of others.

White House photos - GETTY IMAGES
King headshot - Jonathan Exley
   
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