On October 8, President Donald Trump presented the Medal of Freedom—America’s highest civilian honor—to Edwin Meese III, for his lifetime of service and advancement of freedom at home and abroad.
Attorney General Meese’s involvement in the Conservative Movement started young when, as a student at Yale, Meese served as president of the Yale Political Union, chaired the conservative student club and Yale Debating Association.
His selfless spirit was visible at Yale as well when Meese joined ROTC, a move that would lead him to serve in the Army, where he climbed to the rank of colonel in the Army Reserve before retiring in 1984.
It turned out his experience as an attorney in the Army would set his path to becoming the top law enforcement officer in the country, and he earned a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, upon finishing active duty.
UC Berkeley, even more radical in the 1960s than it is today, would end up being the venue that brought Meese and then-Governor Ronald Reagan together. Meese’s work to restore sanity and order to the Berkeley community as a deputy district attorney caught the attention of Reagan, who brought Meese on board as his legal secretary. Later Meese became chief of staff to Reagan because the governor admired Meese’s “sheer ability and brainpower.”
Meese turned his attention back to the rising generation after Reagan’s second term as governor of California as a professor at the University of San San Diego, but his break from public service wouldn’t last long.
When Ronald Reagan began his journey to become the leader of the Free World, Meese stood by his side during the campaign and led Reagan’s transition team before moving full-time to Washington, DC, to serve as counselor to President Reagan.
In this consequential role, Meese was a prominent part of the Cabinet and the National Security Council, serving as Reagan’s chief policy advisor. When asked who he would first turn to in a crisis, Ronald Reagan would answer quickly, “Ed Meese.”
Reagan’s confidence in Meese was evident throughout their years of service together, especially so when Meese was appointed by Reagan to become the 75th Attorney General of the United States.
Following his time as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, Meese continued to serve his country as a key leader within the Conservative Movement through posts at many of America’s leading freedom-advancing institutions. He also authored or co-authored several books including Leadership, Ethics and Policing, Making America Safer, and With Reagan: The Inside Story.
Just as Ronald Reagan recognized, “There is no better way to establish hope for the future than to enlighten young minds,” so too does Mr. Meese who regularly addresses student audiences.
For years, Meese has crisscrossed America to speak to young audiences at colleges and universities. He’s addressed several thousand students at Pepperdine University, the University of Virginia, and the Univerity of Illinois-Champaign. He’s spoken at Boston College, Michigan State, and St. Olaf College. He’s traveled to the University of Mississippi, Swarthmore, Babson, Canisius, Colgate, and Concordia. In all, Meese has visited more than 50 campuses to speak for Young America’s Foundation.
His involvement with the Foundation extends far beyond addressing our student audiences, with his service as co-chairman of YAF’s Reagan Ranch Board of Governors. As a leader within the Reagan Ranch, Mr. Meese’s wise counsel continues to guide important decisions related to the preservation of this priceless historic treasure.
Authorizing the creation of Freedom Wall and Freedom Sanctuary to recognize the patriotic Americans who have contributed to YAF’s preservation efforts; aquiring and building the state-of-the-art Reagan Ranch Center in downtown Santa Barbara; and creating important conferences to be held at the Reagan Ranch for students are a few of the accomplishments achieved under Meese’s tenure on the Reagan Ranch Board of Governors.
It is indisputable that Attorney General Meese has achieved many times more in his career than most could ever hope for. His leadership and selfless commitment to America and the Conservative Movement hasn’t slowed.
At YAF’s Rawhide Circle Retreat this spring, YAF presented Meese with the Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his monumental contibutions to Young America’s Foundation, the United States, and the goals and accomplishments of Ronald Reagan. In a powerful and moving speech in tribute to the work of his one-time boss, Mark Levin emphasized the gravity of Meese’s achievements.
“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is given to individuals who make ‘an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States.’ There is no one more deserving of such recognition that Attorney General Meese,” said Frank Donatelli, Chairman of the Reagan Ranch Board of Governors and a member of YAF’s Board of Directors. “His career in government spanned decades, culminating in his service to President Ronald Reagan, first as Counselor to the President and then as Attorney General. General Meese was a key advisor and architect on virtually all of the momentous decisions and accomplishments of the Reagan Administration, including the revival of the US economy and the strengthening of the rule of law and leading the effort to put men and women on the federal bench who would interpret the Constitution consistent with America’s founding principles. General Meese also distinguished himself in the private sector by serving as Chairman of the Center for Legal Studies and in-house Reagan expert for the Heritage Foundation and as Co-Chairman of the Reagan Ranch Board of Governors of Young America’s Foundation. We congratulate General Meese for a lifetime of service and devotion to America and its founding principles.”
Just as Ronald Reagan chose to work with Young America’s Foundation to work with young people, so too did Ronald Reagan select Ed Meese as a proven partner to achieve his policy goals for America. In carrying on Ronald Reagan’s work, YAF is privileged to work alongside Attorney General Meese, and congratulates him on receiving the Medal of Freedom, a fitting award for a true American patriot.