This week, President Donald J. Trump will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Roger S. Penske, a motorsports king.
The decoration ceremony is expected to take place on Oct. 24.
“He is a great gentleman who has won 18 Indianapolis 500s. He has won, just won Daytona,” said President Trump, referring to the Daytona 500 Championship during his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June, according to The Detroit News.
According to the Team Penske website, “Roger Penske is the founder and chairman of Penske Corporation, a closely-held, diversified, on-highway, transportation services company whose subsidiaries operate in a variety of industry segments, including retail automotive, truck leasing, transportation logistics, and professional motorsports. Penske Corporation manages businesses with consolidated revenues of more than $32 billion, operating in over 3,200 locations and employing more than 64,000 people worldwide.”
From an early age, Penske had a knack for fixing cars and as a teenager he used to fix and sell old cars, according to his biography on Reference for Business. When he grew up, he started racing cars and achieved successes as a race car driver and as a transportation businessman.
In 1963, Penske won the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) Grand National Series race and in 1964, he won five races.
In 1965, Penske announced his retirement as a race car driver and devoted himself to his transportation business.
One of his biggest challenges was a time-critical repair job in the city of Detroit, Michigan, in preparation for its hosting of Super Bowl XL at Ford Field on Feb. 5, 2006. At that time, Detroit’s downtown area had a deteriorated and many buildings were abandoned. Penske was handpicked by Bill Ford Jr., chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company, to coordinate a massive facelift for the city.
As the chairman of the Detroit Super Bowl XL host committee, Penske coordinated preparation efforts, including a long list of renovations and improvements to the city infrastructure, thus making the Detroit Super bowl a success for the state and the city.
Bill Ford Jr. said, “Penske is the most impressive businessman in the city. Everything he touches works because of his personal drive and because his attention to detail is so exquisite. I just love being around that guy,” according to The Detroit News.
Penske is also known from his generosity. According to The Detroit News, Penske was named a Michiganian of the Year in 2005. His company, Penske Corp., spent 35 million dollars in Detroit neighborhoods over five years.
When Penske found out that he would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom he felt very honored and humbled, and said, “This is more than about a sport. This is about your country. This is about you as an individual.”
Presidential Medal of Freedom
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the United States’ highest civilian award, bestowed in recognition of exceptionally meritorious service or contribution to the nation. The medal was established by President Harry S. Truman in 1945 to recognize notable service in World War II. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy reintroduced it as an honor for distinguished civilian service during peacetime.
It is awarded to “people who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interest of the United States, world peace, cultural, or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to USLegal. “The award is not limited to U.S. citizens and, while it is a civilian award, it can also be awarded to military personnel.”
Among Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients are: Collin Powell, John F. Kennedy (awarded posthumously), Martin Luther King Jr., also awarded posthumously.
To date, President Donald Trump awarded the medal to 12 distinguished individuals.