President Barack Obama announced Monday that he will award U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.) the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award an American citizen can win.
After 58 years of representing Southeast Michigan in Washington, D.C., Dingell officially became the longest-serving member of congress in history last year. His district comprises Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, much of Downriver Detroit and other townships in Southeast Michigan. Dingell will retire next year, and his wife Debbie Dingell, currently a Wayne State University trustee and former General Motors lobbyist, was elected last week to succeed him. She will be the third consecutive member of the Dingell family to be elected to Congress, as John Dingell’s father served from 1932 until his death in 1955.
In a statement on his Facebook page Monday evening, Dingell said he was humbled by the recognition.
“There are few words that could accurately describe my thoughts and feelings in receiving this wonderful honor,” he said. “It is especially meaningful to me to receive this recognition alongside such a distinguished and diverse group of individuals that truly represents the ideals and values that have made this nation great.”
Dingell’s stance in Congress has been characterized as moderate and liberal. He is staunch defender of the environment, having helped pen historic legislation such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act. He also advocated for the Affordable Care Act.
More recently, in a January interview with The Michigan Daily, Dingell discussed the need to ease college students’ struggles with student loans and raise the minimum wage.
“That’s one of the biggest problems when I talk to the people I see and serve,” Dingell said on the topic of student loan debt.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established in 1963 to honor those who have contributed to “the security or national interests of the United States, or world peace, or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” As of Nov. 20, 2013, the last update of the Medal’s website, Obama had awarded 61 medals.
Previous recipients of this award under Obama include former President Bill Clinton, scientist Steven Hawking, former South African President Nelson Mandela and author Maya Angelou.