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Former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III
receives SMU’s Tower Center Medal of Freedom

October 17, 2012

Former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III
James A. Baker III
DALLAS (SMU) — Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, received the Medal of Freedom from SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies during formal ceremonies October 17 in McFarlin Auditorium at SMU. The Tower Center Medal of Freedom is presented every two years to an individual, or individuals, who have furthered the cause of freedom throughout the world.

“James Baker is one of our country’s most accomplished statesmen and has provided strong, diplomatic leadership and a collaborative approach to politics throughout his career,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.  “He led policies and progress that secured our nation’s presence on the world stage. We are proud to present him with the Tower Center Medal of Freedom.”

Baker’s public service and scholarship extend from the Cold War through the Arab Spring. He served in senior government positions under three different American presidents – Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Baker is honorary chairman of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and a senior partner in the law firm of Baker Botts.

Baker continues to wield influence on various national and international issues. At a recent conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Baker commented on America’s national debt crisis:

“A broad bipartisan agreement is going to be necessary if we're going to be able to stabilize our debt,” Baker said. “It is critical that Americans of goodwill, Republicans, Democrats and independents alike push our elected officials to make the compromises necessary to get on a sustainable economic track. The alternative of political gridlock and a diminished place for the United States in the global economic arena is unacceptable.”

The Tower Center, located within Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences,  supports teaching and research programs in international and domestic politics with an emphasis on global studies and national security policy. Additionally, it educates undergraduates in international relations, comparative politics and political institutions.

The Tower Center Medal of Freedom recognizes individuals who have contributed to the advancement of democratic ideals and to the security, prosperity and welfare of humanity. This year’s event chairs are Gene Jones, Linda Gibbons and Nancy Halbreich.

“James Baker is a great American statesman who as secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush, helped bring about a peaceful end to the Cold War, ushering in a new period of freedom and prosperity,” said James Hollifield, Tower Center director.  “His clear-eyed realism and judicious use of American power have made him one of the most admired leaders of our time.” 

Medal of FreedomU.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell received the first Tower Center Medal of Freedom in 1997. Other recipients include former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former President George H. W. Bush, General Tommy R. Franks (U.S.A., Ret.), U.S. Senator John McCain and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In addition to awarding the Medal of Freedom, the Center sponsors several conferences a year, works with other international organizations such as the Dallas Council on World Affairs, and supports faculty research and travel.  Each year the Tower Center Board of Directors awards undergraduate fellowships to SMU students interested in studying in Washington, D.C., or in U.S. embassies abroad. Another Tower Center program places SMU students in summer internships in the U.S. State Department.

The Tower Center was established in memory and honor of former U.S. Sen. John Tower, who earned a Master’s degree in political science from SMU in 1953.  He also taught in the Political Science Department after his retirement from the Senate.  Tower represented Texas in the U.S. Senate from 1961 to 1985.  He served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and, after retiring from the Senate, as U.S. strategic nuclear arms negotiator with the Soviet Union in Geneva.  He died in 1991.

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