Hillary Clinton took a break from her book tour Tuesday to honor fashion designer Ralph Lauren at the National Museum of American History. The former Secretary of State (and rumored 2016 presidential hopeful) presented Lauren with the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal for his “contributions to American entrepreneurship, artistry, and creativity,” as well as his financial support for the conservation of the Star-Spangled Banner, which celebrates its bicentennial this year. That project was a hallmark of Clinton’s Save America’s Treasures campaign, which she initiated in 1998 as First Lady.
The event, which took place in the museum’s Flag Hall, kicked off with a naturalization ceremony for 15 new US citizens. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson administered the oath of allegiance, calling the rite the “best part of my job.” Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski spoke about diversity in her home state of Alaska, and outgoing Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough praised Clinton’s commitment to preserving American history before she delivered the keynote.
The former First Lady recalled springing to action after learning that many of the nation’s most beloved monuments and artifacts had fallen into disrepair, the Star-Spangled Banner chief among them. “What more could one say?” she remarked. “What symbol better exemplified our spirit, our struggle, our commitment?” When she launched Save America’s Treasures, Ralph Lauren played a crucial role in the multimillion-dollar campaign to restore the flag. “Ralph responded to the call,” Clinton said. “He understood, because it was deep within him, that part of being an American is giving back—the part that comes from the heart.” Clinton called Lauren the “embodiment of the American dream,” a child of Belarusian immigrants whose name “would become synonymous with American aspiration and style.”
Lauren, who took the podium after receiving the medal, said he got involved with the Star-Spangled Banner conservation project “because it was the right thing to do, because I’ve always been inspired by America.” His effort, he said, was not about public relations. “It came from the heart.”
At the end of the ceremony, Della Mae, an all-female bluegrass group from Boston, played the VIPs off the stage before anyone could ask HRC whether she’s running for President in 2016.