By Geneva Sands - 06/14/12 04:27 PM EDT
"Shimon has been serving his nation — and strengthening the bonds between our two nations — for some 65 years, the entire life of the State of Israel," Obama said at the ceremony. "Tonight, we have the rare privilege in history, and that's to be in the presence of a true Founding Father."
Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived
late to the ceremony, just following the presentation of the medal,
according to pool reports.
Obama later acknowledged the Clintons as "two people who constantly sought to achieve peace."
The president said Peres was a "dreamer" who helped the "desert bloom" by working to secure and build the state of Israel and contributing to the success of the high-tech sector in his country.
Upon receiving the honor, Peres said he was "profoundly moved" to be chosen for the award.
"I receive this honor today on behalf of the people of Israel. They are the true recipients of this honor. With this moving gesture, you are paying, Mr. President, tribute to generations upon generations of Jews who dreamed of, fought for a state of their own," Peres added.
Peres also warned of new challenges and dangers faced by the global community and the spread of worldwide terrorism, aiming his fears towards Iran.
"The danger is today concentrated in Iran. The Iranian people are not our enemies. It is the present leadership that became a threat. It turned Iran into a danger to world peace. It is a leadership that aims to rule the Middle East, spreading terror all over the world. They are trying to build a nuclear bomb. They bring darkness to a world longing for light," he said.
He told Obama that his vision for Israel is one "whose moral code is old as the Ten Commandments tablets and whose imagination as new as the digital tablets."
The Israeli president offered words of encouragement, saying the believes the United States will be one of the greatest sources of energy and individual production in the future, touting development in science in both countries.
Peres was included in a group of 13 awardees last month, but the Israeli president was not in attendance for the earlier event, which included Bob Dylan, Madeleine Albright, and Toni Morrison.