Former US Rep. Ron Kind awarded OBE for aiding US-UK relations

Former Democratic congressman received the chivalric award during a ceremony at the British Embassy in Washington, DC in November

Ron Kind poses with his medal and British officials
Former U.S. Rep. Ron Kind and his wife, Tawni, with British Ambassador Karen Pierce, far right, at Kind’s Order of the British Empire investiture ceremony at the British Embassy in Washington D.C. on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023. Photo courtesy of Ron Kind

Former Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Ron Kind has been appointed an Honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

The 20-year congressman from La Crosse was awarded an OBE by King Charles III for “services to UK/US relations.” Kind was co-chair of the U.S.-U.K. Caucus for his last eight years in Congress and worked with the British American Parliamentary Group.

“(It was) members of Parliament, members of Congress getting together, talking to one another, making sure that we’re on the same page on the major challenges that we share from security to economic diplomacy, human rights, promotion of democracy,” said Kind, who ended his final term in office in 2022.

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Before his time in Congress, Kind earned a master’s degree at the London School of Economics. Kind said he was able to intern for a member of Parliament during his time overseas.

“It was an opportunity for me to compare and contrast our two democratic institutions, how things were done differently in Great Britain but also the vast similarities that we share with them from our forms of government,” he said.

Kind received the chivalric award in November during an investiture ceremony in Washington, D.C. with British Ambassador Karen Pierce. He said the gold cross medal representing the honor is surprisingly heavy.

“The Brits do pomp and ceremony very, very elegantly,” he said. “It was a nice affair at the British Embassy and a lot of fun.”

Kind is not the first Wisconsin congressional representative to receive the honorary award. Former Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Petri from Wisconsin’s 6th congressional district was awarded an OBE in 2015 for his contributions to U.S.-U.K. relations.

“He was one of the first ones I reached out to when I received notice from the British Embassy,” Kind said. “I made a point of inviting him to the investiture ceremony and he came and wore his medal too. It was really cool.”

Kind now gets to add “OBE” after his name as a mark of the honor, which is a part of the British order of chivalry that includes knighthood. But Marquette University history professor Tim McMahon said as a non-Brit, Kind won’t be able to call himself “Sir”.

“It’s actually rather unusual, though there certainly have been Americans who have received OBE or other chivalric distinctions,” said McMahon. “Past presidents like George H.W. Bush and Dwight Eisenhower received knighthoods, philanthropists, business people like Bill and Melinda Gates, for example, have received them.”

McMahon said the Order of the British Empire honorary system was created during World War I by King George V and includes five classes, with OBE being the fourth highest. He said it’s considered a high honor both in the United Kingdom and around the world.

“It shows that they made a mark right, that they made a difference,” he said. “Because not only are they recognized at home for what they did, but they’re recognized in an international setting as well.”