Twenty-one extraordinary Americans, legends in their professions, have been chosen to receive the top U.S. civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The nation’s highest civilian honor is “a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better,” President Barack Obama said in an announcement Wednesday.
“From scientists, philanthropists and public servants to activists, athletes and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way,” Obama said.
This year’s roster of medalists includes sports legends Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and veteran sports broadcaster Vin Scully; actors Robert Redford, Robert DeNiro, Cicely Tyson and Tom Hanks; entertainers Ellen DeGeneres, Diana Ross and Bruce Springsteen.
Other honorees are philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, polymath physicist Richard Garwin, architect Frank Gehry, designer Maya Lin, television producer Lorne Michaels, attorney Newton Minow, mathematician and computer scientist Margaret H. Hamilton, and Eduardo Padrón, president of Miami Dade College in Florida.
Posthumous honors will go to Native American advocate Elouise Cobell and Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.
The current version of the award was established by former president John F. Kennedy more than 50 years ago to honor those who have made outstanding contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to other significant public or private endeavors.
The awards will be presented Tuesday at the White House and streamed live to the internet.