Smithsonian honors Ralph Lauren for fashion, flag

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Smithsonian honors Ralph Lauren for fashion, flag
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Ralph Lauren holds up the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal after being presented with the award by Hillary Clinton (C) and Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough (L) at the National Museum of American History June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. Lauren was presented the award during a citizenship ceremony welcoming 15 new Americans for his contributions to the preservation of the Star-Spangled Banner. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Designer Ralph Lauren speaks after receiving the James Smithsonian Bicentennial Medal from Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the 2014 Naturalization Ceremony hosted by The Smithsonian's National Museum Of American History on June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd L) waves to spectators during a naturalization ceremony with Ralph Lauren (2nd R), U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (L), and Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough (L) at the National Museum of American History June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. Lauren was presented the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal during a citizenship ceremony welcoming 15 new Americans for his contributions to the preservation of the Star-Spangled Banner. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Designer Ralph Lauren attends the 2014 Naturalization Ceremony hosted by The Smithsonian's National Museum Of American History on June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. Lauren was presented with the James Smithsonian Bicentennial Medal. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (3rd L) confers with Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (2nd L), during a naturalization ceremony at the National Museum of American History June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. Designer Ralph Lauren (3rd R) was presented the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal during a citizenship ceremony welcoming 15 new Americans for his contributions to the preservation of the Star-Spangled Banner. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: (L-R)Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and designer Ralph Lauren attend the 2014 Naturalization Ceremony hosted by The Smithsonian's National Museum Of American History on June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton(C) is introduced during cermonies naturalizing 15 new US citizens from 15 countries and to present designer Ralph Lauren(R) the James Smithson Bincentennial Medal June 17, 2014, at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Lauren was honored for his contributions in preserving the original copy of the 'Star-Spangled Banner', the US national anthem. Looking on at left is Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Designer Ralph Lauren attends the 2014 Naturalization Ceremony hosted by The Smithsonian's National Museum Of American History on June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. Lauren was presented with the James Smithsonian Bicentennial Medal. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Ralph Lauren reacts after being awarded the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal by Hillary Clinton (C) and Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough (L) at the National Museum of American History June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. Lauren was presented the award during a citizenship ceremony welcoming 15 new Americans for his contributions to the preservation of the Star-Spangled Banner. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Ralph Lauren reacts after being awarded the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal by Hillary Clinton (C) and Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough (L) at the National Museum of American History June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. Lauren was presented the award during a citizenship ceremony welcoming 15 new Americans for his contributions to the preservation of the Star-Spangled Banner. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Newly naturalized U.S. citizens wave American flags after taking the oath of citizenship during a naturalization ceremony at the National Museum of American History June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. Designer Ralph Lauren was also presented the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal during the ceremony welcoming 15 new Americans for his contributions to the preservation of the Star-Spangled Banner. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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By BRETT ZONGKER

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ralph Lauren's love for the American flag and American style earned him high honors Tuesday from the Smithsonian Institution, celebrating his five decades in fashion.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton helped present the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal to the designer at the National Museum of American History following a naturalization ceremony for 15 new U.S. citizens. The award also marks the 200th anniversary of the actual flag that inspired the national anthem.

Clinton noted that Lauren, 74, is the son of immigrants from Belarus who grew up in the Bronx, New York.

"Now surely Ralph and his family ... could not have imagined, or maybe they could have when they landed in the Bronx, that their lives would be the embodiment of the American dream," Clinton said. "In particular, Ralph, the youngest, would become synonymous with American aspiration and style."

Clinton wore a pantsuit to Tuesday's event that was Lauren's first-ever custom-designed outfit for her, including a cobalt-blue structured silk jacket.

Clinton and Lauren first joined forces in 1998, when she was first lady, to raise money for the Smithsonian to preserve the original "Star-Spangled Banner" flag that inspired the national anthem, along with other historic artifacts, through Clinton's Save America's Treasures program. Lauren donated $10 million to help restore the flag and another $3 million to support the historic preservation program.

"Ralph responded to the call. He didn't have to," Clinton said. "But he understood because it was deep within him that part of being an American is giving back."

Lauren is known for designs that have defined American fashion and for his patriotic uniforms for U.S. Olympic athletes. He got his start selling ties from a drawer at the Empire State Building. Now Ralph Lauren Corp. has 25,000 employees worldwide.

The Smithsonian award citation honored Lauren "for his embodiment of the American experience through fashion, design and philanthropy."

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