President Barack Obama has named fifteen recipients of the
Medal of Freedom. 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. The awards will be presented at a White House ceremony early next year.
President Obama said, “These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they’ve excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place. I look forward to awarding them this honor.” The following individuals will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom: President George H. W. Bush, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Congressman John Lewis, John H. Adams, Co-founder the Natural Resources Defense Council, Maya Angelou, prominent and celebrated author, poet, educator, producer, actress, filmmaker, and civil rights activist, Warren Buffett, American investor, industrialist, and philanthropist, Jasper Johns, American artist, Gerda Weissmann Klein, Jewish Holocaust survivor who has written several books about her experiences, Dr. Tom Little (Posthumous) was an optometrist who was brutally murdered on August 6, 2010, by the Taliban, Yo-Yo Ma cellist, Sylvia Mendez civil rights activist of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, Stan “The Man” Musial, baseball legend and Hall of Fame first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, Bill Russell, former Boston Celtics’ Captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball, Jean Kennedy Smith, founder, VSA, a non-profit organization affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center that promotes the artistic talents of children, youth and adults with disabilities and John J. Sweeney current President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom has its roots in the Medal of Freedom established by President Harry S. Truman in 1945 to honor civilian service during World War II. President John F. Kennedy nominally revived the medal in 1963. In practical terms, this order created what amounted to a new decoration, with totally different insignia, vastly expanded purpose, and far higher prestige.
The medal is awarded annually, at convenient times as chosen by the President. Recipients are selected by the President, either on his own initiative or based on recommendations. The order reviving the medal also expanded the size and the responsibilities of the Distinguished Civilian Service Awards Board so it could serve as a major source of such recommendations.