WASHINGTON – President Obama today named 16 recipients of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom. America’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
This year’s awardees were chosen for their work as agents of change. Among their many accomplishments in fields ranging from sports and art to science and medicine to politics and public policy, these men and women have changed the world for the better. They have blazed trails and broken down barriers. They have discovered new theories, launched new initiatives, and opened minds to new possibilities.
President Obama said, "These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds. Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change. Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.
"Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we all should strive. It is my great honor to award them the Medal of Freedom." (whitehouse.gov)
President Obama will present the awards at a ceremony on Wednesday, August 12.
The following individuals will receive the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom:
Nancy Goodman Brinker - Nancy Goodman Brinker is the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s leading breast cancer grass roots organization.
Pedro José Greer Jr. - Dr. Pedro Jose Greer is a physician and the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs at the Florida International University School of Medicine, where he also serves as Chair of the Department of Humanities, Health and Society.
Stephen Hawking - Stephen Hawking is an internationally-recognized theoretical physicist, having overcome a severe physical disability due to motor neuron disease.
Jack Kemp - Jack Kemp, who passed away in May 2009, served as a U.S. Congressman (1971 – 1989), Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (1989 – 1993), and Republican Nominee for Vice President (1996).
Sen. Edward Kennedy -Senator Edward M. Kennedy has served in the United States Senate for forty-six years, and has been one of the greatest lawmakers – and leaders – of our time.
Billie Jean King -Billie Jean King was an acclaimed professional tennis player in the 1960s and 1970s, and has helped champion gender equality issues not only in sports, but in all areas of public life.
Rev. Joseph Lowery -Reverend Lowery has been a leader in the U.S. civil rights movement since the early 1950s.
Joe Medicine Crow – High Bird Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the last living Plains Indian war chief, is the author of seminal works in Native American history and culture.
Harvey Milk Harvey - Milk became the first openly gay elected official from a major city in the United States when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.
Sandra Day O’Connor - Justice O’Connor was the first woman ever to sit on the United States Supreme Court.
Sidney Poitier- Sidney Poitier is a groundbreaking actor, becoming the top black movie star in the 1950s and 1960s.
Chita Rivera - An accomplished actress, singer and dancer became the first Hispanic recipient of the coved Kennedy Center Honor. Rivera broke barriers and inspired a generation of women.
Mary Robinson- Mary Robinson was the first female President of Ireland (1990 – 1997) and a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Janet Davison Rowley- Janet Davison Rowley, M.D., is the Blum Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology and Human Genetics at The University of Chicago.
Desmond Tutu- Desmond Tutu is an Anglican Archbishop emeritus who was a leading anti-apartheid activist in South Africa.
Muhammad Yunus -. Muhammad Yunus is a global leader in anti-poverty efforts, and has pioneered the use of "micro-loans" to provide credit to poor individuals without collateral.
For a more complete synopsis of the accomplishments of this year’s recipients, go to the official White House website, whitehouse.gov.
Cheri is a freelance writer, living in Southern California. She has two grown children and is the proud grandmother of three. Cheri is also a purveyor of fine coffee, warm chatter and dry wit.
You can find all of Cheri’s columns on Personal About Politics at www.personalpolitcs.gather.com, The Obama Watch at theobamawatch.gather.com or her home page here, www.ccabot.gather.com.