With the awarding of the 25th annual Liberty Medal, Clinton joined a list of recipients who include her husband, Bill Clinton, former President George H.W. Bush, Steven Spielberg, U2's Bono and last year's awardee, Muhammad Ali.
The former first lady addressed the Syrian conflict in her acceptance, saying that active democracy and crossing partisan lines to achieve unity on key issues are integral to America's standing in the world.
"As secretary of state traveling around the globe, I saw firsthand how American unity leads to strength, and discord leads to perceived weakness," Clinton said. "When we let partisanship override citizenship, when we fail to make progress on the challenges facing our people here at home, our standing in the world suffers."
She acknowledged that President Obama would address the country soon after the ceremony about "the Assad regime's inhuman use of lethal chemicals against men, women and children."
"That violates a universal norm at the heart of our global order, and it demands a strong response from the international community led by the United States," she said. "This debate is good for our democracy."
Partisan considerations did influence the ceremony, however.
Traditionally, the award is presented by the chairman of the National Constitution Center. Chairman Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, delivered remarks during the ceremony, but Constitution Center president and CEO Jeffrey Rosen did the honors of presenting Clinton with the medal.
Clinton, a likely Democratic contender for the 2016 presidential nomination, could potentially face Bush, a Republican who is also mulling a run in the next presidential race. She poked fun at the situation, pointing out that last night was "not the first time that a Clinton and a Bush have shared this stage," after her husband and Jeb Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, were jointly honored with the same medal in 2006.
"Today, Jeb and I are not just renewing an American tradition of bipartisanship," Clinton said with a grin. "We're keeping up a family tradition, as well."
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