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Photo by Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0

Penn President Amy Gutmann honored U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) at the 2017 Liberty Medal Ceremony held Oct. 16 at the National Constitution Center.

The NCC, a U.S. Constitution-themed history museum located in Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, awards their annual Liberty Medal to “men and women of courage and conviction who have strived to secure the blessings of liberty to people the world over.” Former Vice President Joseph Biden presented the 29th medal to McCain for his lifetime of sacrifice and service.

“We gather to honor a man renowned for his deep respect for constitutional knowledge and tradition and his abiding bipartisanship, two things in such short supply these days,” Gutmann said in her speech.

Gutmann stressed the importance of McCain’s knack for bipartisanship during a time of political polarization in the U.S. She pointed to the “distinctive bipartisan friendship” between McCain, a career-long Republican, and Biden, a former Democratic Senator, as something to celebrate.

After commending his 23 years of service in the Navy, Gutmann concluded her speech by further applauding McCain’s character.

“He routinely forgoes what is expedient to pursue what is just and what is right,” Gutmann said. “We look to him as a moral voice, straight-talking and upright. Honestly imperfect, and all the braver for it. The life he has lived inspires us, no matter what our party affiliation.”

Some of McCain's comments at the award ceremony have drawn the attention of media outlets nation-wide, with some suggesting that the senator was making a "veiled criticism" of the Trump administration. 

At the ceremony, McCain said, "To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems."

As a National Constitution Center Trustee, Gutmann has honored civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis at the 2016 Liberty Medal Ceremony as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the 2013 ceremony.