News / USA

    Obama Awards Presidential Medals of Freedom

    President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Freedom to astronaut John Glenn in the East Room of the White Housem May 29, 2012 (AP)
    President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Freedom to astronaut John Glenn in the East Room of the White Housem May 29, 2012 (AP)
    WHITE HOUSE - President Barack Obama on Tuesday awarded the nation's highest civilian honor - the Presidential Medal of Freedom - to 13 individuals, including a former U.S. astronaut, an American music legend, and the first woman to serve as Secretary of State.  

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to those 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."

    Bob Dylan was recognized as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, John Glenn was cited for a long career that included being the first American to orbit the Earth and Madeleine Albright was honored for being the first woman to serve as Secretary of State.

    "Through her consummate diplomacy and steadfast democratic ideals, Secretary Albright advanced peace in the Middle East, nuclear arms control, justice in the Balkans and human rights around the world, "a White House aide, read the Albright citation.


    Honored posthumously was Jan Karski, the former Polish underground army officer who provided eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust during World War II.  Gordon Hirabayashi was honored for challenging the U.S. government's forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during the war.

    President Obama said all of the honorees were talented and driven, and that they changed society.

    "What sets these men and women apart is the incredible impact they have had on so many people - not in short blinding bursts, but steadily, over the course of a lifetime," said President Obama. "Together, the honorees on this stage and the ones who could not be here, have moved us with their words.  They have inspired us with their actions; they have enriched our lives and they have changed our lives for the better."

    Other recipients included:  William Foege, a physician and epidemiologist who helped lead the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox; and Delores Huerta, a civil rights, labor and women's advocate who co-founded the United Farm Workers of America.

    Also honored were:  U.S. former Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, college basketball coach Pat Summitt and, posthumously, Juliette Gordon Low who founded the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

    John Doar, a former Department of Justice official, received the Medal of Freedom for his work protecting and enforcing civil rights during the 1960s.  President Obama said that had it not been for Doar's work, he might not be in the White House today.

    "He was the face of the Justice Department in the South," said Obama. "He was proof that the federal government was listening.  And over the years, John escorted James Meredith to the University of Mississippi.  He walked alongside the Selma to Montgomery march [by African Americans].  He laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting rights Act of 1965."

    Israeli President Shimon Peres could not be present to receive his medal.  President Obama said he has invited Mr. Peres to have dinner at the White House next month and would present him with his medal at that time.

    At the end of the ceremony, Mr. Obama shared his personal thoughts, describing how some of the honorees had affected his life.

    "I remember reading [the Morrison novel] "Song of Solomon" when I was a kid, and not just trying to figure out how to write, but also how to be and how to think," said President Obama. "And I remember in college listening to Bob Dylan and my world opening up because he captured something about this country that was so vital.  And I think about Dolores Huerta - reading about her when I was starting off as a [community] organizer."

    President Obama said the Medal of Freedom recipients had touched his life in some way and that all of them are heroes to him personally.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Despite Cease-fire, Myanmar Landmine Scourge Goes Unaddressed

    Myanmar has third-highest mine casualty rate in the world, according to Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which says between 1999 to 2014 it recorded 3,745 casualties, 396 of whom died

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha?

    From meat and potatoes to avocados, how immigrants transform American cuisine

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Kenny47 from: Connecticut
    June 01, 2012 5:46 PM
    More politically inspired choices by the Obamanation, from the socialist Delores Huerta to John Glenn who sold his soul to the Democrat Party by defending their campaign finance scandals in return for another ride on the space shuttle to the witless incompetent Madeleine Halfbright who was used by the North Koreans. Meanwhile unemployment goes up to 8.2% (inreal number much higher) and May produced only 67,000 new jobs. How pathetic and incompetent this president is.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora