Jul 24, 2020
Donald Trump Presents Medal of Freedom to Jim Ryun Transcript July 24
President Donald Trump presented the Medal of Freedom to Olympian and former Congressman, Jim Ryun, on July 24. Read the transcript of the event here.
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President Donald J. Trump: (00:15)
Thank you, very much. Please, let’s enjoy ourselves. This is a tremendous moment for Jim and your family. And let’s just enjoy ourselves for a little while. We’ll ask Jim to say a few words. I want to hear what he has to say about his great talent, his great running ability. I find athletics to be extraordinary. I love it. Thank you for being here. And today it is my privilege to present our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom to a legendary athlete and a legendary runner, Olympian and true American Patriot, former Congressman Jim Ryun. Jim, congratulations. Fantastic.
Jim Ryun: (00:59)
Thank you very much.
President Donald J. Trump: (01:03)
We’re joined today by Jim’s wife, Anne. Thank you Anne, very much. Congratulations.
Anne Ryun: (01:08)
President Donald J. Trump: (01:09)
And various family members. But his son, where’s Ned? Ned, thank you very much. Catharine, thank you very much. And I’m going to ask you to come up and say a few words, the both of you, so you better be prepared. You’ve got a lot of news back there. See, I’m being nice today. I don’t use the other word in front of the word news. But Jim’s journey started with a prayer. After being cut from his church baseball team, I can’t believe that, that must’ve been a bad day, huh, and his junior high basketball team, they probably made a mistake, he asked God for guidance. Jim wanted to know God’s plan for him. And he only had one request, that it was something to do with sports. You liked sports.
President Donald J. Trump: (01:53)
That prayer was answered when Jim joined the high school track team. He joined it and had no experience whatsoever, as he said, he didn’t really know what he was doing and he didn’t know what he was doing there. In his very first mile race, however, he came in second place to the reigning state champion and a real talented person. Do you ever see him around by the way? He’s still around?
Jim Ryun: (02:17)
Yes, he is.
President Donald J. Trump: (02:18)
Okay, that’s pretty good. He’s still saying, “What happened?” But Jim’s first time in running the mile was four minutes and 32.4 seconds. So that tells you there’s something genetically that’s pretty good, because that doesn’t happen. Four minutes, 32.4 seconds, first time he ever ran the mile. That was the last time he ever came in second in a high school race. And after that, Jim was always first. The next year, Jim ran a 3.59 mile and became the first high school athlete in history to smash the four minute barrier. That summer he also competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as the youngest middle distance runner in the world, by quite a bit actually. In Jim’s senior year of high school, he ran against three time Olympic gold medal winner Pete Snell. He was good wasn’t he?
President Donald J. Trump: (03:09)
But that was a bad day for Pete. Before the event, Snell reportedly said that he didn’t think Jim would really have much of a chance or be much of a factor. Jim soon proved him wrong. With 300 meters left in the race, Jim surged ahead of the pack and swept across the finish line in a fraction of his time. What was your time? Three minutes and 55.3 seconds. That’s not bad, right?
Jim Ryun: (03:36)
It was okay.
President Donald J. Trump: (03:37)
Not bad? I don’t know. What did Pete say? Was he gracious about it?
Jim Ryun: (03:41)
President Donald J. Trump: (03:43)
But he was a great runner. I mean, he was a great runner. This also right now stands in high school as a record 35 years. It took 35 years to break that record. When ESPN ranked the greatest high school athletes, listen to this, this is incredible, when ESPN ranked the greatest high school athletes of all time, all sports, they listed Jim Ryun as number one. That’s not bad for guy who couldn’t make his baseball team, right? That’s really an amazing achievement. That’s incredible. Jim continued his extraordinary athletic career at the University of Kansas. In 1966, he set his first world record in the mile at a time of three minutes and 51.3 seconds, becoming the first American to do so in more than three decades.
President Donald J. Trump: (04:39)
After the race, a young fan ran up to him and asked for his autograph. That fan would soon become his future wife. That was a good autograph. That was Anne. You two are so lucky that happened. I wonder where you’d be, I guess. That’s fantastic. Great, Anne. In 1967, Jim ran an incredible 3.511 mile, which would stand as the world record mile for almost a decade. Jim still describes it as the easiest race he ever ran. Is that right? It was magic.
Jim Ryun: (05:18)
President Donald J. Trump: (05:19)
It was magic. To this day, it’s the last time in American set the world record in the mile. So that was a while ago. What is the world record right now? So your at 3.51.
Jim Ryun: (05:32)
President Donald J. Trump: (05:32)
3.43 or so? Okay, that’s a long time. Training and lots of other things.
Jim Ryun: (05:43)
Yeah, some of the other things aren’t so good.
President Donald J. Trump: (05:43)
We have breaking news now. This could be the big story today. That’s great. But that is some long period of time that he held the record. In 1968, Jim Bradley represented Team USA at the Mexico City Olympics and won the silver medal for the 1500 and he competed in 1972 at the Munich Olympics with great distinction. A few years later, Jim retired from running. He had been on the cover of Sports Illustrated seven times, was ranked Sportsman of the Year in 1966, was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and received the immortal nickname Master of the Mile. And he was, I remember it. I shouldn’t tell you that, but I remember a lot of your races. They weren’t even close, actually. In 1975, you founded the Jim Ryun Running Camps. For the past 45 years, Jim has helped teach thousands of young people to reach their fullest and best athletic potential. He has been a dedicated mentor to campers and shared in the critical importance of a Christian faith. He is very devoted to Christianity.
President Donald J. Trump: (06:52)
In 1996, Jim was elected to the House of Representatives and he went on to serve five terms in Congress. I wish we had him now. We have some great people in there though, I’ll tell you. We have some great, dedicated, hard workers and they’ve done a terrific job, right? Wouldn’t you say, Ned? I think so. Some really great ones. But he served five terms from Kansas’s Second District. He was a principled, committed, very tough and beloved lawmaker. That’s what they said. He was tough and yet beloved. That’s a rare combination. Jim has personified the greatness of our country throughout his life, whether he was running on a track race or whether he was doing anything there was, running an office or running for office. He was always the top person. People respected him more. I’ve heard it for a long time. I’d ask about him and they’d say, “When he was in Washington, he was just a respected person.”
President Donald J. Trump: (07:47)
He was a giant of American athletics, a dedicated public servant and a man of charity, generosity, and faith. He’s a great man, actually. Jim, thank you so much for your unfailing devotion to our country and congratulations on a lifetime of incredible success. Not only athletically, that was obviously a big deal, but what you’ve done in life and even with your family has been just incredible. So I’d like to congratulate you very much. And before we present you with the incredible beautiful metal, I’d like to ask maybe Catharine and Ned to come up and say a few words, if you’d like, and talk about your father. Please.
Catharine Ryun: (08:30)
Well, thank you, first of all, for giving us a couple of minutes. Dad, thank you for being the man that you are. I know that today it’s all about your accolades in the public eye, but you have been such an amazing dad and wife of more than 50 years to mom, and just a man of character. And this is a man who loves the Lord with all his heart and has been such an amazing father to all of us. And so thank you and proud to your daughter. And Mr. President, thank you for having us here today. I want to leave you with my favorite verses from Numbers. It’s, “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May he make his face to shine upon you and give you peace.”
President Donald J. Trump: (09:06)
Thank you very much. That’s so nice. Thank you, Catharine.
Ned Ryun: (09:12)
Mr. President, thank you. This means a great deal to me. I’m not going to get choked up. I got choked up last night when I was talking and I told myself I would not do that again. But I just wanted to tell everybody, you know my dad as the miler, as the Master of the Mile, as the world record holders, the three time Olympian. And I want to tell a story really quick of one of his former colleagues, Jay Dickey, out of Arkansas. And he pulled me aside one day and he said, “Ned, there are a lot of people in Congress who think they’re all that. They’re drunk on power. They’re arrogant.” He was like, “Your dad walks the halls as one of the most humble, gracious people I know. But the thing about your dad is there are very few people in the world that can say they were ever the very, very best at what they did in all of the world.
Ned Ryun: (09:56)
“In a world full of billions of people, you are the absolute best at what you did, and your dad was. But you would never know that because he’s so gracious, he’s so kind, and he’s so humble.” And I tell people this all the time, the sacrifice, everything that went in to being the very best in the world, and yet you would never know it. You could have a conversation with my dad and when he talks with his fans and he gives him autographs and he shares a few moments with them, the graciousness that is displayed as an example to me as a song. And I tell people this all the time, the integrity and the honesty, the nobility that he has shown in life, if I can be half the man that he is, it’ll be a triumph. Thank you.
Jim Ryun: (10:58)
Mr. President. I learned a long time ago, when you have such a great introduction, thank you for the comments, and you have your children and saying wonderful things it’s probably a good idea to find the exit while you’re ahead, and I am considering that. However, I want to make a few remarks. Mr. President, thank you. On the behalf of my family, which includes my wife at 51 years, and yes, she did chase me down, my children and grandchildren, our dear friends who have traveled far and wide, thank you for bestowing on me this high honor with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. On behalf of them, I accept that and I thank you for this privilege. These achievements we are celebrating began with a simple prayer. You actually talked about that a moment ago.
Jim Ryun: (11:39)
After being cut from the church baseball team, junior high basketball team, and, well, I never made the junior high track team, I began ending each day with this simple prayer, and by the way, I would throw it out there for you that if you’re looking for something, this would be a good way to start. Dear God, I’d like my life to amount to something. I believe you have a plan for my life. I’d appreciate your help in figuring it out. And if you could help me out and make a plan that would include sports of some kind, I’d really appreciate it. Thank you and good night. God did indeed show up in a huge way answering my simple heartfelt prayer. I finally made my first athletic team, the Wichita East Cross Country Team my sophomore year in high school. God gave me a former Marine, Bob Timmons, to coach me.
Jim Ryun: (12:26)
I wasn’t even supposed to be at East High School. Southeast High was just down the street from where I live, but as I didn’t have plans to go to college I instead went across town to East High School to go to a vo-tech school to be a draftsman so I could follow my father and brother and work at Boyne. But as we know, God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform, and in my first year of running, I became the National High School Record holder. 18 months after starting to run seriously in 1964, I became the first high school boy to run a mile in four minutes, a feat which many had thought impossible until coach Timmons, who we affectionately called Timmy, had me sit with him on a bus ride from Kansas city back to Wichita my sophomore year. He told me, “Jim, I think you can be the first high schooler to break four minutes.” Being perfectly honest, I thought at the time he might be just a little crazy.
Jim Ryun: (13:20)
Every reality begins with a dream, a seed of inspiration, and Timmy planted a seed and I wanted to believe him that maybe, just maybe, it was possible. I committed to it, took ownership, and in the blazing hot summer days and in the bitter cold winters of Kansas began running 100 miles a week, week after week, month after month, many of them run in the dark after school, all to compress those countless hours and thousands of miles into running for laps in less than four minutes. Not only would I break the four minute mile my junior year in high school, several months later, I would find myself pouring every ounce of strength down the home stretch of the 1964 Olympic trials, making the Olympic team at 1500 meters, winning by mere feet at the age of 17. It was the beginning of an amazing eight years. I would set the American record in the mile at 18 and would follow Timmy to the University of Kansas wearing the famous pink and blue colors, winning NCAA titles.
Jim Ryun: (14:20)
I can still hear our beloved Pat-Pat Timmins cheering me on even today. Pat-Pat Timmins and Timmy would become godparents to our children and never become … Let me try that again. They were grandparents to our children and Ned would be the godfather, son of our daughter. I’ll get that out. Let’s try that one more time. Godparents to our son Ned. I would make two more Olympic teams, the world record in the mile multiple times, the world record in the 1500, the world record in the half mile, the indoor world record in the mile and half mile, the American record in two miles, and helped set numerous world records on various relay teams. And that’s after being cut from the church baseball team.
Jim Ryun: (15:06)
This boy from Wichita, Kansas who would one day have written his name on a piece of wood and buried it and hopes that someday someone might find it and remember him would make covers of Sports Illustrated seven times, all of that before the age of 25. In a day and age, when many think it’s appropriate to dishonor our flag, I will tell you, it is one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life to represent this amazing country and to wear the stars and stripes on my chest while racing in the ’60s and ’70s. There was such pride and love of country, and I cannot tell you, Mr. President, how much I appreciate your full throated championing of this great country.
Jim Ryun: (15:53)
The accolades in my life have exceeded anything I could have imagined. And now Mr. President, with the Medal of Freedom bestowed on me by truly one of the greatest Republican Presidents is such a great honor. Mr. President, you have big dreams for America, ones that echo for me my old coach. Instill a dream what could be and then pursuit it with everything you have. Your dream of keeping America and the American Republic great and then making her greater is an epic and noble pursuit. My wife, Anne, our daughter, Catharine, my son, Ned and Becca, and our four grandchildren along with our dear friends present today, join you in the pursuit of helping make this a reality. Mr. President, it may surprise you, time diminishes us all. I no longer run four minute miles. In fact, I’m not sure I could run a four minute half mile.
Jim Ryun: (16:42)
And while the applause and cheers of men fade, nothing can take away from me those moments when I was young and full flight down the final back stretch, the wind in my face, wings on my feet, powering away from my opponents, there was a period in those times when my mind overcame a tired body and for those few glorious moments I would slip the bonds of the physical and I was free, I had won. And I look back now realizing my running career was a celebration and there is no doubt in my mind that we were all made for a purpose. I was made to run. I was also made to glorify God in all that I do. So, on my words and in my actions, I celebrate that purpose and will do that always to his glory.
Jim Ryun: (17:26)
What Anne and I cherish very much as having had the privilege of raising four beautiful children who contribute to our nation daily. In addition, we’ve been blessed with the opportunity to give back to the sport of running through the Jim Ryun Running Camps. We’ve had thousands of young runners attend the camp through the years, instilling in them this truth, God loves you and has a plan for your life. And then we challenge them with the work to become human beings, to become physically, mentally, and spiritually fit. As I receive this medal, and its an incredible honor, thank you, Mr. President, I will close by saying this. To God be the glory, great things he has done. This day, my life, and all of these achievements, this is the Lord’s doing and it’s marvelous in his eyes.
Jim Ryun: (18:07)
Mr. President, thank you for your loving and serving this great Republican country. May God continue to bless you and your family with his peace. Thank you again for this great honor.
President Donald J. Trump: (18:18)
Thank you very much.
Jim Ryun: (18:33)
You’re very welcome.
President Donald J. Trump: (18:33)
Speaker 6: (18:51)
Jim Ryun is a world class athlete and a highly respected former member of Congress. As one of the best middle distance runners of all time, he is the last American to hold the world record in the mile run. He proudly represented the United States at the 1968 Summer Olympics, earning a silver medal in the 1500 meter race. Following his success on the track, Mr. Ryun channeled his patriotism into a noble career in public service, representing the Second Congressional District of Kansas for more than a decade, distinguishing himself as a principled Conservative. The United States probably recognizes Jim Ryun for his meritorious contributions to our nation.
Jim Ryun: (19:23)
Thank you. It’s a great honor. You’ve done a great job. Keep it up.
President Donald J. Trump: (19:23)
Thank you, everyone. Thank you.