||He was also the founder of two influential national U.S. organizations: Common Cause and Independent Sector. He authored books on improving leadership in American society and other subjects. He was also the founder of two prestigious fellowship programs, The White House Fellowship and The John Gardner Fellowship at Stanford University and U.C. Berkeley. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. In 1966 Gardner was awarded the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.
Gardner's term as Secretary of HEW was at the height of Johnson's Great Society domestic agenda. During this tenure, the Department undertook both the huge task of launching Medicare, which brought quality health care to senior citizens, and oversaw significant expansions of the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 that redefined the federal role in education and targeted funding to poor students. Gardner resigned as head of HEW because he could not support the war in Vietnam.