Established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest honor for a civilian. It is awarded by the President of the United States to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Past recipients have been movers and shakers in a range of fields, including public service, medicine, journalism, entertainment, and business. The impressive list of past honorees includes Steven Spielberg, Muhammad Ali, Angela Merkel, Nancy Reagan, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
“To get an award like this, it’s a lifetime achievement award, not only for what you did, but for what you continue to do,” said Gable.
The namesake of the Dan Gable Museum in his hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, Gable was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 1980 and into the Dan Gable Museum’s Glen Brand Wrestling Hall of Fame of Iowa in the Charter Class of 2002. He is also a member of the World Wrestling Hall of Fame, the USA Wrestling Hall of Fame, and the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.
Gable was a three-time Iowa state high school champion for Waterloo West and a two-time NCAA champion and three-time finalist for Iowa State. He had a combined record of 181-1 in his prep and college career, losing only in the 1970 NCAA finals. Gable won the Pan American Games and the world championships in 1971 and the Tblisi Tournament and the Olympics in 1972. He did not surrender a single point in his six matches at the Olympics and was named the Outstanding Wrestler at the Tblisi Tournament, considered by many to be the toughest tournament in the world.
After stepping off the mat, Gable became the most successful coach in NCAA history, coaching the University of Iowa from 1978 to 1997. He led the Hawkeyes to 21-straight Big Ten titles and 15 NCAA team championships, including a record nine in a row from 1978 to 1986. Gable coached 152 All-Americans, 46 national champions and 12 Olympians, who combined to win eight medals (four gold, one silver and three bronze).
Other athletes who have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom include Tiger Woods, Jesse Owens, Billie Jean King, Michael Jordan, and Babe Ruth.