Hamid Karzai, the president of Afganistan, has been awarded the 2004 Philadelphia Liberty Medal in recognition of his efforts to unite and rebuild his war-torn country.
Established in 1988 on the two-hundredth anniversary of the U.S. Constitution and administered by the Philadelphia Foundation, the Liberty Medal honors an individual or organization from anywhere in the world that has "demonstrated leadership and vision in the pursuit of liberty of conscience or freedom from oppression, ignorance, or deprivation." Karzai, who was born in Kandahar in 1957 and was educated in Kabul and India, played a significant role during his country's decade-long struggle against the Soviet Union. In 1992 he became deputy foreign minister of the post-war government but broke with the Taliban in 1995 after its religious extremism became apparent. He was appointed head of Afghanistan in December 2001 after the Taliban was driven from power by a coalition of Western countries led by the United States and was elected president of Afghanistan in June 2002.
"The Philadelphia Liberty Medal has always been awarded to world leaders of great courage, vision, and faith in the future," said Martin Meyerson, president emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania and chairman of the international selection commission that chose Karzai. "President Karzai abundantly exhibits those cherished qualities. He is working tirelessly and skillfully to unify his country's diverse factions, strengthen its economy, and move toward democratic values and practices."
Past recipients of the medal, which comes with a $100,000 cash award, include Lech Walesa, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Shimon Peres, King Hussein, Thurgood Marshall, Kofi Annan, Colin Powell, and Sandra Day O'Connor. President Karzai, the sixteenth recipient, accepted the award and its $100,000 prize on July 4 in Philadelphia.