Following the spirit of freedom

Updated November 18, 2018 - 7:27 am

Rising to stand beside President Trump on the East Room dais felt, to me, like floating. When he clasped America’s highest civilian honor around my neck, I was euphoric with wonderment and gratitude.

As a former military officer and medical doctor of decades’ standing, I am not prone to reveries. What I experienced at Friday’s White House ceremony was something else: the awe that comes with sensing, suddenly, how faith and fate have steered one’s life.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is a uniquely magnanimous tribute to distinguished public service, whether by U.S. citizens or foreigners. I am both — an Israeli native and a naturalized American — and see this medal as the ultimate endorsement of the two nations’ shared values and destiny.

The advancement of liberty is at the heart of that alliance. It is what has inspirited my decades of work in disease research, the treatment of drug addiction and philanthropy.

It is the kindred spirit that I found in my beloved husband, Sheldon, and the spirit in which we have raised our children and which they, in turn, have raised theirs.

I owe so much to so many who share in this spirit — the spirit of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

It was first imparted to me by my beloved parents, Menucha and Symcha.

Barely out of their teens, they had set off alone from the gathering doom of 1930s Poland to stake out a corner of the world where they could live free, unafraid, a nation among the nations. The Holocaust robbed them of their parents and siblings, but not of their humanity or hope.

There, in a young State of Israel struggling to survive, they raised me to foster and fight for liberty — for myself, for my people, for wider humankind, and at all times.

I found that spirit in the Israel Defense Forces, where I served as a medical research officer, and later, when I had the privilege of joining the ranks of the world’s healers, providing release for the sick and the stricken.

Today, I find that spirit in the brave American and Israeli soldiers overcoming wounds sustained in the War on Terror, and whom my husband Sheldon — himself a U.S. Army veteran — and I have had the honor of helping.

I find that spirit in the drug addicts I treat, both juveniles and adults, for whom recovery is a liberation from enslavement, from the torment of withdrawal and also, all too often, from ostracism by society.

It is the spirit of those who fight and sacrifice so that they might love freely, like the young Afghan couple who braved their families’ blood-feud and, with me and other well-wishers interceding, secured a new life together abroad.

The spirit of this medal is that of the Jewish people, which millennia ago, from the flight of Exodus to the battles of the Maccabees, lit the torch of individual liberty for humanity at large — a torch now long held aloft by the United States.

The spirit of this medal is the spirit of the free market, which undergirds liberal societies, creates wealth that can be used for the greater good, and encourages charity and amity.

It also is the spirit of President Trump.

He has blazed new trails in U.S. policies with courage and conviction. He knows that one has to stand for what is right, even if that means standing alone. He knows that truth is not always popular, though it wins out.

I think of all of these people, and feel humbled at having been able to journey with them toward a better world.

Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, America. May the spirit of this medal continue to guide you, and us all.

Dr. Miriam Adelson is a specialist in chemical dependency and drug addiction, and a philanthropist. With her husband, Sheldon Adelson, she is the owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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