Earlier this year, author J.K. Rowling was given one of France’s highest honors when she was inducted into the Legion of Honor by French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee presidential palace. No surprise, I suppose, considering the fact that Rowling’s beloved “Harry Potter” books have sold more than 400 million copies and been translated into 67 languages — not to mention the history-making film adaptations, which collectively have gone north of $5.3 billion in worldwide box office.
Turns out, according to a new book by a speechwriter during the Bush administration, there was talk of honoring the British author with the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom a few years ago but the idea was a non-starter in the White House. The former administration had decision-makers who spoke up to “actually object to giving the author J.K. Rowling a presidential medal because the Harry Potter books encouraged witchcraft,” writes Matthew Latimer, author of “Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor.”
Hmm. They gave the same medal to James Cagney and John Wayne without fear of gunfire in the streets, and Charlton Heston got one despite his mixed messages on creationism vs. evolution (sure, he made great Bible movies, but what about that talking-ape film?). My first thought was that Rowling didn’t merit the award for the simple reason that, well, it was too big of an honor — but, really, is she provably less deserving than previous honorees Julia Child, Rita Moreno or NASCAR driver Richard Petty?
Many supporters celebrate Rowling’s philanthropy and point out that her works have energized young readers in dynamic fashion in an era when parents had given up hope that their youngsters would willingly set aside video games and television remotes so they could plow through a 759-page tome such as “Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows.” Will she still be honored with the Medal of Freedom? The late Ted Kennedy, who was viewed as Voldemort by the GOP, was passed over for the medal during the Bush administration but got it from the next occupant of the White House. Should Rowling be another second-chance candidate?
Take a look at the list of previous Medal of Freedom winners and leave a comment below with your opinion.
— Geoff Boucher
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