President Bush has presented the highest U.S. civilian award to 12 people, including baseball legend Hank Aaron and former first lady Nancy Reagan.

Other recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom include comedian Bill Cosby and D.A. Henderson, who directed the World Health Organization's campaign to eradicate smallpox.

The late publisher Katherine Graham was also honored for making the Washington Post one of America's leading newspapers through aggressive defense of freedom of the press.

Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela, who was absent from Tuesday's White House ceremony, also received an award. Other recipients included opera star Placido Domingo, political writer Irving Kristol, management expert Peter Drucker, business innovator Gordon Moore, former children's television show host Fred Rogers, and human rights journalist A. M. Rosenthal.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to those deemed to have made great contributions to the security or national interest of the United States, world peace, or to cultural or other worthy endeavors.