Editorial: Congratulations to Roger Penske

The Detroit News

Congratulations to Roger Penske, who is expected to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom Thursday. The racing icon and Detroit promoter is a deserving recipient of the nation’s highest civilian honor.

President Donald Trump announced in June that he would acknowledge Penske, 82, whom he called a “great gentleman who has won 18 Indianapolis 500s.”

Roger Penske, Team Penske owner and chairman of Penske Corp., sits among four of 18 Indy 500 winning Indy Car Series vehicles during a tour of his Penske Restoration building in southeast Michigan.

More:Trump to award Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom

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In a White House statement this week, Penske’s achievements are described: “Roger S. Penske is a well-known American success story. Guided by his father’s favorite phrase, ‘effort equals results,’ Mr. Penske built his one car dealership into Penske Corporation, a leader in global transportation services. On the track, Mr. Penske built and led Team Penske into the most successful motorsports team in history. Mr. Penske’s passion and unrelenting drive have established him as a business and motorsports icon.”

Among his accolades, Penske was instrumental in bringing the 2006 Super Bowl to Detroit, at a time when no one was considering Detroit a cool place to visit. He foresaw that Detroit could make a comeback. 

And Penske is the guy who brought IndyCar racing back to Belle Isle in 2007. The Grand Prix is an annual event that attracts thousands of people to the city and millions in investment. 

He believed in the city, even when it was at its lowest point. 

More recently, Penske Corp. was one of seven companies to pledge $35 million to Detroit neighborhoods in the next five years. And he was instrumental in the construction of the Woodward Avenue QLine.

Penske was named one of The Detroit News’ Michiganians of the Year in 2005.

“What an honor it was to get a call from the president,” Penske said in July. “It was very humbling to understand that I would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It’s very exciting for me, for my family, and certainly for our whole team and the people that have been around me to help me get to where I have been in life.”

The Medal of Freedom is awarded by the president to “to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

The Medal of Freedom was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and past recipients include Steven Spielberg, Muhammad Ali, Nancy Reagan, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and Rosa Parks.

Penske is a worthy addition to that list.