Mills, who rocketed to the world stage when he won a gold medal
in the 1964 Olympics, will be a medal winner again this week when
he meets with President Barack Obama.
On Friday, February 15, the Pine Ridge
native will be in Washington, D.C., to receive the Presidential
Citizens Medal, the nations second highest civilian award.
"I am humbled and honored to be recognized
by the president in this extraordinary way," the 74-year-old
Mills said. "The most powerful thing you can give to a child
is a dream. I hope every child in Indian Country knows what is possible
if you follow your dream."
Mills had big dreams of his own when he
qualified for the Olympics in the 10,000-meter race even though
he was given virtually no chance of winning a medal. He made history,
however, when he came from behind in the final 200 meters to beat
the world record holder at the time, Ron Clarke of Australia.
Mills, the only American to ever win a
gold medal in that event, went on to set seven U.S. track and field
records and was co-holder of the 6-mile world record.
Since his athletic successes, Mills co-founded
and has become the national spokesman for the Running Strong for
American Indian Youth organization, a nonprofit agency that works
to strengthen Native American communities.
Lauren Haas Finkelstein, Running Strong's
executive director, said Mills, who now lives in Fair Oaks, Calif.,
continues to give back to his culture through his work with the
"In Lakota culture, someone who achieves
great success has a 'give away' to thank the support system of family
and friends who helped him achieve his goal," she said. "For
decades, as Running Strong's national spokesperson he has traveled
tirelessly to impart his message of inspiration and opportunity
based on dignity, character and pride to American Indian children
and their families."