Thursday, February 17, 2011
US President Barack Obama presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to fifteen people Tuesday, including former US President George H. W. Bush and current Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. The award—the US’s top civilian medal—is given to those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
The fifteen medal recipients were chosen in 2010, but not all of them were present to receive the award at the White House Tuesday. Merkel did not attend the ceremony, and the award for Tom Little was given to his wife because the winning optometrist had been killed in August while working in Afghanistan. The medal recipients “reveal the best of who were are and who we inspire to be,” said Obama.
The other winners are: John H. Adams, environmental advocate; Maya Angelou, poet and author; Warren Buffett, billionaire executive and philanthropist; Jasper Johns, contemporary artist; Gerda Weissmann Klein, Holocaust survivor; Yo-Yo Ma, cellist; Sylvia Mendez civil rights activist; Stan Musial, retired St. Louis Cardinals baseball player; Bill Russell, retired basketball coach and Boston Celtics player; Jean Kennedy Smith, diplomat and disabilities advocate; and John J. Sweeney, former president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.