WASHINGTON — The family of former House Speaker Tip O’Neill will accept a medal honoring the late Massachusetts Democrat for his many years of public service. The medal is being bestowed by the Gerald R. Ford Foundation.
O’Neill, who spent three decades in the House and served as speaker from 1977-87, would have turned 100 this year. He died in 1994.
“The O’Neill family deeply appreciates having our father recognized with this wonderful medal for distinguished service in Gerald Ford’s name. This makes the centennial year of our father’s birth even more special. The wonderful friendship our fathers enjoyed continues on,’’ said Thomas O’Neill 3rd, the son of the former speaker and a former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.
The Medal for Distinguished Public Service, which will be awarded at a ceremony held Tuesday in Washington, recognizes someone who has worked in the public good, according to the foundation, named in honor of the nation’s 38th president.
“It is fitting that the medal should be awarded to Tip O’Neill, an extraordinary individual whose long career in public service has demonstrated so many of the ideals championed by dad,’’ said Steve Ford, the foundation’s chair and former president’s son.
“Dad and Tip always remained good friends despite their political differences. In today’s partisan political climate our elected officials would do well to reflect upon the values held by Tip and dad in order to accomplish more for our nation.’’
Ford died in 2006.
When O’Neill died, Ford paid honor to his friend by calling him a “patriot who always carried the torch for the Congress and American people.’’
Both men served in Congress during some of the country’s most tumultuous times. Ford ascended to the presidency after Watergate and the resignation of President Richard Nixon, while O’Neill became speaker of the House after Ford’s failed bid to remain in the White House.
A quote from Tip O’Neill is inscribed on the granite base of the Gerald R. Ford statue in the United States Rotunda and the duplicate statue in front of the museum. It reads, “God has been good to America, especially during difficult times. At the time of the Civil War, He gave us Abraham Lincoln. And at the time of Watergate, He gave us Gerald Ford – the right man at the right time who was able to put our nation back together again.’’