WASHINGTON — Three senators, an economist, a general, an admiral and the Rev. Jesse Jackson will be among 15 Americans to receive the nation's highest civilian honor this week from President Clinton.
Established by President Truman as a wartime honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was reintroduced by President Kennedy as way to honor civilian service.
Clinton will recognize the individuals at a White House ceremony on Wednesday.
The award recipients are:
Sen. John Chafee, who died last year, served as a Marine lieutenant in the World War II battle at Guadalcanal and fought in the Korean War. He was a state representative in Rhode Island, governor of Rhode Island and secretary of the Navy. In the Senate, Chafee was a champion of environmental legislation and worked to expand health care and reform foster care.
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who as supreme allied commander of NATO led the alliance to victory in Kosovo. Clark graduated first in his class at West Point, served in Vietnam and helped negotiate the Bosnia peace accords.
Jackson, considered both an asset and a pest by the Clinton administration, frequently is invited to White House events even though he flirted briefly with the idea of running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Jackson was with the Clinton family after the president told the nation of his extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky but drew the ire of Clinton advisers last year when he ignored their warnings and went to Yugoslavia to retrieve three American soldiers held as prisoners.
Retired Adm. William Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who also served as commander of the Middle East Force in the Persian Gulf, head of Navy plans and policy and commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command.
Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund. She was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi bar and first black woman elected to the Yale University Corp.
John Kenneth Galbraith, a leading economist, taught economics for nearly 30 years and has written more than 30 books. During World War II, he was largely responsible for the Office of Price Administration's record in controlling inflation. He advised Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and also served as U.S. ambassador to India.
Monsignor George Higgins, adjunct lecturer at Catholic University, has spent more than 50 years working to ensure worker justice. He has been honored several times by labor groups and once was described as the "labor movement's parish priest."
Mildred "Millie" Jeffrey, a women's labor and Democratic Party activist, was the first female to direct a department of the United Auto Workers. She worked for the UAW from 1945 to 1976 and served on commissions during the Kennedy and Carter administrations.
Mathilde Krim, who founded the AIDS Medical Foundation in 1983, was one of the earliest leaders in the effort to find a cure for AIDS. She has worked on topics ranging from cancer research to human genetics and her foundation, which joined with the American Foundation for AIDS Research in 1985, has poured millions of dollars into AIDS research.
George McGovern, a Democratic nominee for president in 1972, currently is the U.S. representative to the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization, where he is helping to develop a plan to address the food needs of 500 million people — half the world's underfed — by 2015. He was elected to the House in 1956. In the Senate, he led the expansion of the food stamp program.
Cruz Reynoso, a private lawyer, teaches law and serves as vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In 1982, after six years on the California Court of Appeals, he became the first Latino to serve on the California Supreme Court. He also has served as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
The Rev. Gardner Taylor, an author and early civil rights supporter, has been called the "dean of the nation's black preachers." Under his leadership, his church, Concord Baptist Church of Christ in New York City, became the most prestigious black church in America.
Simon Wiesenthal, a Nazi concentration camp survivor, has devoted his life to finding evidence to prosecute Nazi war criminals. In 1977, he founded the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which works to fight bigotry and anti-Semitism. President Carter presented him with the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in 1980, and he received the French Legion of Honor in 1986.
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan has represented New York in the Senate since 1977. A strong supporter of Social Security, he is the only person to serve in the Cabinet or sub-Cabinet, including two ambassadorial appointments, of four successive presidential administrations, Kennedy through Ford.
James Edward Burke, former chairman of Johnson & Johnson, is chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. He has helped develop the National Youth Media Campaign and worked to discourage young people from using drugs.