The "Highlight" of Sam Walton's Career: The Presidential Medal of Freedom

By Alan Dranow

The Arrival of Air Force One

March 17, 1992:  Air Force One lands at northwest Arkansas' Drake Field. XNA – Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport – has yet to be built. President George Herbert Walker Bush descends the stairs to the tarmac in Fayetteville, he and First Lady Barbara Bush arriving to bestow upon Samuel Moore Walton the highest honor a U.S. president can bestow upon a U.S. civilian: the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Extraordinary People

Over the past 51 years, the Presidential Medal of Freedom has been conferred upon such diverse recipients as Pope John Paul II, Justice Thurgood Marshall, John Glenn, Stephen Hawking, and Nelson Mandela.

Though Sam is invited to the White House for the ceremony, his failing health would make the trip an arduous one. But it's also Sam's desire to be surrounded by the ordinary yet extraordinary people he loved and those who loved him – his Walmart associates – that brings the president to Bentonville. 

 An Auditorium Full of People, Full of Emotion

In the Home Office Auditorium, Bush's remarks are direct and to the point. "We come here to honor a man," he says, "who shows that through hard work, and vision, and treating people right, many good things can happen …"

Meet The Author
Alan Dranow Senior Director for the Walmart Heritage Group

His favorite artifact is one that is a tangible and iconic symbol of the truly humble man that was Sam Walton – his red Ford pickup truck.