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

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs