Eisenhower Fellowships will award its highest honor, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Medal for Distinguished Leadership and Service, to the late U.S. Senator John S. McCain III in recognition of his decades of leadership in the United States military and the Senate. Sen. McCain’s son, Douglas, will accept the posthumous award on his father’s behalf on May 9, 2019.

“John embodied traditional American values of integrity, sacrifice and service and he reaffirmed the politics of tolerance, inclusion and civil dialogue,” said Dr. Robert M. Gates, chairman of Eisenhower Fellowships (EF) and former U.S. Secretary of Defense.

The selection of Sen. McCain is only the second time in the organization’s 66-year history that the Eisenhower Medal has been awarded posthumously. Katherine Graham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and late chairman of the Washington Post was the recipient in 2002, one year after her death.

Sen. McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958, and served in the Vietnam War as a naval aviator. In 1967, his Skyhawk aircraft was shot down over Hanoi, and he was taken prisoner. He would spend five years as a prisoner of war in Hỏa Lò Prison, in North Vietnam, where he was repeatedly tortured.

After his release, McCain retired from the Navy and entered politics. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 and four years later to the Senate. He served there for 31 years as a powerful member of the Armed Services and Indian Affairs Committees.

“Sen. McCain’s work as a champion of a strong national defense, a principled American engagement in global affairs and a generous and compassionate approach to the least fortunate among us are in the best traditions of our organization of diverse, dynamic doers,” said George de Lama, president of Eisenhower Fellowships.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service is awarded annually to a distinguished states person, business leader or other public figure who has achieved, through direct personal contacts across borders, widely-recognized advances toward President Eisenhower’s vision of a world more peaceful, prosperous and just.

The Eisenhower Medal will be presented at the EF Annual Awards dinner at the Bellevue Hotel in Center City, Philadelphia. At the Awards Dinner, Dr. Gates will also present the Distinguished Fellow Award collectively to the Eisenhower Fellows of Sri Lanka for their extraordinary impact in helping their South Asian island nation reconcile and heal after more than three decades of deadly civil war.

Previous winners of the Eisenhower Medal include Gen. Colin Powell, USA (Retired); Sens. George Mitchell and Sam Nunn; former Secretaries of State Madeline Albright, James A. Baker III and Henry Kissinger; former President George H.W. Bush; Mohammed Yunus; Doctors Without Borders; former National Security Adviser Gen. Brent Scowcroft; former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman; former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton; and former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, among others.


Now in its 66th year and named for America’s 34th president, Eisenhower Fellowships brings together innovative leaders from all fields from around the globe who tackle big challenges to better the world around them. Since 1953, more than 2,400 mid-career leaders from 115 countries have benefited from the unique, customized experience of an Eisenhower Fellowship.

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