Medal of Freedom: President Obama presents Bob Dylan, Toni Morrison, others with highest civilian honor
The Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. On Tuesday, President Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom to 13 people.
“These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our Nation,” President Obama said. “They’ve challenged us, they’ve inspired us, and they’ve made the world a better place.”
Flip through our slideshow to learn more about some of the recipients:
- Bob Dylan
One of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century, Bob Dylan released his first album in 1962. His work had considerable influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has had significant impact on American culture over the past 50 years.
He has won 11 Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award, the 2009 National Medal of Arts, and has won numerous other accolades. He has written more than 600 songs, and his songs have been recorded more than 3,000 times by other artists.
- John Glenn
John Glenn made history in 1962, when he became the third American in space and the first American to orbit the Earth. Glenn was also elected to the U.S. Senate from the state of Ohio in 1974 and served for 25 years.
He was an architect and sponsor of the 1978 Nonproliferation Act and served as Chairman of the Senate Government Affairs committee from 1987 until 1995. In 1998, Glenn visited space once again at the age of 77. He is a Congressional Gold Medal and Congressional Space Medal of Honor recipient.
Related: Space Shuttle Launch on Twitter
- Toni Morrison
Morrison became the first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1993, and created the Princeton Atelier at Princeton University to convene artists and students.
- Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright served as the 64th United States Secretary of State under President Clinton - the first woman to hold that position, paving the way for future Secretaries of State like Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. She worked to grow NATO and helped lead the campaign against ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, pursued peace in the Middle East and Africa, and sought to reduce the spread of nuclear weapons.
Since leaving public life, she founded the Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management, and wrote five books.
- Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta is a civil rights, worker, and women’s advocate. With Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the National Farmworkers Association in 1962, which later became the United Farm Workers of America. The organization's infamous mantra is "Si, se puede," or "Yes, we can."
Huerta was influential in securing the passage of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, and disability insurance for farmworkers in California. In 2002, she founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation, an organization dedicated to developing community organizers and national leaders.
- John Paul Stevens
John Paul Stevens served as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010, when he retired as the third longest-serving justice in the Court’s history. His work left a lasting imprint on the law in areas such as civil rights, the First Amendment, the death penalty, administrative law, and the separation of powers.
Prior to his term on the court, Justice Stevens was Associate Counsel to the Subcommittee on the Study of Monopoly Power of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and a member of the Attorney General’s National Committee to Study Antitrust Law.
Click on each slide for an enlarged photo of some of this year’s Medal of Freedom recipients.
This year’s award recipients include: former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; public servant John Doar; musician Bob Dylan; physician and epidemiologist William Foege; former astronaut, and U.S. Senator John Glenn; Gordon Hirabayashi, who defied the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II; civil rights and women’s advocate Dolores Huerta; Jan Karski, who served as an officer in the Polish Underground during World War II and carried among the first eye-witness accounts of the Holocaust to the world; Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low; author Toni Morrison; Israeli President Shimon Peres; former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens; and former NCAA basketball coach Pat Summitt.
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