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George Mitchell

Presidential Medal of Freedom

No matter how many times you hear or read the words that are at the base of the Statue of Liberty, the famous poem by Emma Lazarus -- "Give us your tired and your poor " -- you get goose bumps, and you think about the fact that the United States has been the place of hope and opportunity for people from its very beginning to the present day.
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Mario Molina

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Mario Molina: I was born in Mexico City. I was born and raised in that city. I went to school -- to college -- in Mexico, eventually studying chemical engineering. But long before I went to college, I was already fascinated with science. I can remember playing with chemistry toys and microscopes and so on. So since I was a child, I really became very interested in science, and had as a goal to become a scientist and to pursue scientific research as a career. So eventually, when I finished college in Mexico, to become a researcher, I decided to go abroad. So first I spent a few years in Europe, and then eventually came to the United States, doing a Ph.D. at Berkeley in chemistry. That was the way in which I could actually achieve my goal of doing research for a living.
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Mario Molina

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Mario Molina: I remember, as a very young child -- just natural curiosity, I guess -- just trying to find out how toys work, taking them apart and so on, and eventually doing the same thing with chemistry sets. So it was really before entering high school that I realized that chemistry and biology -- at that time it was not very clear for me which of the two -- but it was something fascinating for me. I began to read biographies of famous scientists. I also liked mathematics at that time, so I realized that I could combine this sort of natural curiosity to see how nature functions, with a creativity in terms of trying to quantify the way nature works. It was really, for me, just a natural development, I believe, just to keep this interest, this natural curiosity alive, which sometimes -- through the natural process of going to school somewhere or other -- it dies, or so. But for me, it was an obsession, and I was able to continue with it.
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Scott Momaday

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Every boy who grows up in New Mexico, especially southern New Mexico, knows about Billy The Kid. He's a real presence, an authentic legend. When I was growing up I spent a lot of time with Billy The Kid. We rode the range together. Yeah, that was an aspiration. When I was 12-years-old I was, like Alexander, given a horse. There the comparison ends, but that horse meant everything to me. It was one of my great glories. I must have ridden several thousands of miles on the back of that horse in a period of about five years. That was certainly, a great time in my life. My imagination ran wild with cowboys and Indians. I discovered a book by Will James called Smokey, the Story of a Cow Horse. That was my first great literary experience. I could not, literally could not put it down. When I had finished it, I read everything I could get my hands on by Will James. Sun Up, all kinds of cowboy stuff. The writing was terrible, but the books were wonderful. And so, it made a great difference in my life, too. You know, being the descendent of centaurs, I have always understood the value of a horse, from the time my father began telling me stories. A lot of them were about horses. Horses have always been very important to me.
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Scott Momaday

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

I wanted to succeed. I wanted to write well, and I tried to. I applied myself. I think that writers haven't much choice. You know, if someone really has the impulse to write, then that's what he must do. I don't think there's much of a choice. After the impulse is realized, he writes. And that's how I feel about my development. I think that I was compelled to write, and so I never had the choice of doing anything else, really. I was talking to some kids today at lunch and they were talking about happiness. One of them said "I'm going to Harvard and I'm going into science, I'm not sure that's really what I want to do. I want to be happy., and I might be happy doing any number of other things." I thought, that's true in a way. But if you are really compelled to write, that's where happiness is. It's in doing what you can do, and being the best you can be at it. That really makes for -- I don't know if I'd use the word happiness, but James Earl Jones today talked about contentment. There is certainly a contentment. A satisfaction in doing what you can do.
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Scott Momaday

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

I think that's probably part of it too, all writers, probably, are a bit insecure all of the time, and very insecure much of the time. But you work against that. That's just how the game is played. You can't let yourself bog down permanently into such a state of despair, or ennui, or whatever it is. You have to work against it. We get back to the idea of the writer having to write. I once read something by Kafka, a letter. He said something to this effect: "God doesn't want me to write, but I have to write." And so there's this terrible tug of war, and you know who wins, but I can't help it, it's just something I have to do. And that's pretty much my philosophy, too.
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