Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is the winner of the 2010 Liberty Medal, the prestigious prize awarded annually in Philadelphia to champions of freedom around the world.
Blair was named shortly after 9 Wednesday morning in ceremonies at the National Constitution Center, across Independence Mall from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
Speakers, including Mayor Nutter, praised Blair for helping end the conflict in Northern Ireland, working for peace in the Middle East, and establishing the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which supports international charity work while opposing religious extremism.
After 9/11, Blair sent British troops in support of the U.S. military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, a foreign policy that brought him much criticism in Britain. He served as prime minster from 1997 to 2007.
President Bill Clinton, chairman of the Constitution Center, will present the medal to Blair on Sept. 13, during an event televised by ABC. Typically, winners also take part in public and private receptions in Philadelphia.
He will join a diverse and distinguished list that most recently added U2 lead singer Bono and his African aid group, DATA (2007), former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev (2008), and last year's honoree, Steven Spielberg, recognized not just for such award-winning films as Schindler's List, Amistad and Saving Private Ryan, but for supporting the Shoah Foundation, which has preserved the stories of thousands of Holocaust survivors.
The prize was created by a group called We the People 2000 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the U.S Constitution in 1988.
The first Liberty Medal was awarded in 1989 to Lech Walesa, the labor leader who bravely pushed for reforms in Poland.
The Constitution Center has hosted the presentation since 2003, when the award went to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. A few years ago, the center took over the selection process as well.
Six recipients later won the Nobel Peace Prize, according to the center's Web site, www.constitutioncenter.org.
2009: Director Steven Spielberg
2008: Former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
2007: U2 lead singer Bono and his advocacy organization Debt AIDS Trade Africa (DATA).
2006: Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
2005: Ukrainian President Viktor A. Yushchenko.
2004: Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
2003: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
2002: Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
2001: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
2000: Scientists James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick.
1999: South Korean President Kim Dae Jung.
1998: Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.
1997: CNN International.
1996: Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and King Hussein of Jordan.
1995: Sadako Ogata, U.N. high commissioner for refugees.
1994: Czech President Vaclav Havel.
1993: South Africa leaders F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.
1992: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
1991: Former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).
1990: Former President Jimmy Carter.
1989: Polish President Lech Walesa.