Today U.S. Senator Dick Lugar received the Distinguished Service Medal from the American Legion. Lugar was presented the award during the American Legion National Convention in Indianapolis. The Distinguished Service Medal is the highest award presented by the American Legion. Awarded since 1921, the Distinguished Service Medal has been presented based on outstanding service to the community, state and nation.
Lugar's full prepared statement from the American Legion Convention is below.
"I thank Commander Wong for his kind introduction. It is good to be in Indianapolis with so many friends. It is a special pleasure to follow Governor Daniels, who has provided extraordinary leadership to Indiana for the last eight years.
"I am honored to receive the Distinguished Service Medal from the American Legion. I have appreciated the opportunity to work with this great organization over many years, both in Washington and here in Indianapolis. Your advocacy on behalf of American veterans, America's servicemen and women, and their families is enormously influential in our nation's capital and in state capitals around the country. Veterans and active duty members owe much to the efforts of the Legion.
"I also join in congratulating the American Legion Youth Champions and the members of our armed services who received Spirit of Service Awards earlier in the program.
"Finally, let me also pay tribute to members of the Legion for their deep interest in our country's national security policies. Those who have worn the uniform in wartime know better than anyone how important it is that America remains strong, militarily, diplomatically, and economically. This makes armed conflict less likely, and it ensures that if it is necessary to fight, the United States will go to war with a military that is second to none. My own service as a Navy lieutenant instilled in me a lifelong appreciation for the many challenges we face around the globe, and over the years I have benefitted from the advice and counsel of the Legion.
"We gather at a time when our country's list of challenges seems exceptionally long. We have an unfinished war in Afghanistan, a violent peace in Iraq, rising tensions with Iran, civil war in Syria, the still potent threat from global terrorism, assertiveness by China in regional affairs, and a financial crisis in Europe that threatens our own sluggish economic recovery, just to name a few. We also gather during a presidential campaign that has witnessed unusually harsh rhetoric, which has had the effect of making our problems seem even greater than they are. All this has led to talk that America is in decline, that we have lost our leadership role in the world, or that others no longer look to us for inspiration. I would assert today that such pessimistic attitudes greatly underestimate the strength of American character.
"The United States remains the world's most successful demonstration of the transformative power of human liberty and economic freedom. In the last century, the role that the United States played in overcoming forces of despotism and economic stagnation stands unrivaled in the annals of world leadership. Despite some missteps, I believe this is indisputable from any objective point of view.
"During World War II, the United States was the deciding force in defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. After the war, we helped rehabilitate our enemies, and they quickly established strong economies and vibrant democracies. Through our assistance and protection, we also helped countries such as South Korea and Taiwan move from extreme poverty to impressive prosperity. During the Cold War, we stared down the Soviet Union at great risk and expense, while functioning as the driver of world economic growth. Before the century was over, the results of our global leadership were causing changes that had once been unthinkable. The Soviet Union fell, Germany was united, China adopted a market-driven economic philosophy, and many countries in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa became more democratic.
"American institutions and political and social freedoms have served as models for the world, as we have helped to nurture democratic transformations. Furthermore, the United States has continued to perform a little-appreciated global security function during the post-Cold War era. Our armed forces, by their mere presence, have deterred major wars and minor conflicts. Our Navy has been the principal force for maintaining order on the high seas, and the alliance structures we built have brought stability and prosperity to previously volatile regions in Europe and Asia.
"Americans have led the world's fight against disease and hunger. Beyond our own multi-billion dollar programs, the programs of other nations and many non-governmental groups depend on the United States for direction and support. The United States is also the undisputed leader in disaster assistance, because we have been willing to apply both our financial strength and our logistics capabilities to humanitarian relief in catastrophic situations like the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 and Japan's last earthquake. We even have helped the former Soviet Union protect and destroy the very nuclear arsenal that was once pointed at us
"But in the 21st Century, as I mentioned, it has become increasingly popular to question America's future. Wefrequently see stories on the theme that our days as an economic superpower are numbered. Commentators focus on the maturity of our economy, the rise of China, and many other reasons why American power will be eclipsed.
"But much of what is identified as decline is actually a sign of how successful the United States has been in exporting our political ideals and our economic system. The United States has been the main author of a gradual global transformation that is miraculous and unprecedented, but also uncertain and messy. One of the manifestations of this success is that nations that used to be on the periphery continue to join the world system as full partners. Just as Germany, Japan, and South Korea helped invigorate the Cold War global economy, now we are seeing the rise of China, India and Brazil. This dynamic is also reflected in the democracy movement in the Middle East, where populations have risen up to challenge repressive governments.
"The advancement of other nations may affect some measures of our relative power, but it need not reduce our security, our standard of living, or our philosophical influence. The United States is still the nation with the best hand to play and the one most capable of adapting to changing conditions.
"Our competitive advantage is heightened by the resilience and creativity of our people. No other nation enjoys the quality and variety of post-secondary education options that exist in the United States. And no other country has a deeper tradition of individual achievement, freedom, and entrepreneurial spirit. These attributes have helped us create the broadest scientific and technological base, the most advanced agriculture system, and the most influential culture in the contemporary world.
"The current climate of international economic dynamism rewards education above all other commodities. It rewards those with multiple skills who dedicate themselves to a lifetime of learning. The United States will flourish in the global marketplace, if education remains a top priority and if we nurture the competitive genius of the American people that has allowed us time and again to reinvent our economy.
"We have unmatched intellectual capital and sophisticated investors who are willing to take risks. We also have the advantage of a younger and more mobile population than exists in most other industrialized nations. Talented people want to learn, invest, and live in the United States. Many of them recognize that the American experiment in liberty is unique in its ambitions and values and our freedom to profit from new ideas has few limits.
"These American freedoms are defended by the strongest military in the world. Our military prowess is undergirded by the extraordinary young people who continue to volunteer to serve in the armed forces of our country.
"To be sure, in order for us to take full advantage of these strengths, our political and business leaders must make wise decisions to overcome problems that have accumulated. But Americans have never been afraid of change. And I am confident that not too long from now, we will look back on the current time of anxiety as a prelude to the next golden era in the American story.
"Thank you for your attention, and thank you again for this great honor."