Obama Names Medal of Freedom Winners: Kennedy, Poitier, Hawking, 13 Others

Obama Names Medal of Freedom Winners: Kennedy, Poitier, Hawking, 13 Others

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presmedalfreedom.jpgPresident Obama on Thursday named the 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.

Described as “agents of change”, the trailblazers include Billie Jean King and Sandra Day O’Connor, who broke through barriers for women, Sidney Poitier and Harvey Milk, who led the way for blacks and gays, and Stephen Hawking for the disabled.

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.”

President Obama will award the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to the following individuals during a White House ceremony on August 12:

Nancy Goodman Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer organization

* Pedro José Greer, Jr., founder of Camillus Health Concern, an agency that provides medical care to over 10,000 homeless and low-income patients each year in Miami

* Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist and Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University

* U.S. Congressman, Jack Kemp, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (posthumously)

* U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy

* Billie Jean King, tennis champion and gender equality activist

* Rev. Joseph Lowery, civil rights leader and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King

* Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the last living Plains Indian war chief, author of works on Native American history and culture

* Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official, elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (posthumously)

* Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice

* Sidney Poitier, the first African American to be nominated and win a Best Actor Academy Award

* Chita Rivera, actress, singer and dancer, the first Hispanic to receive the Kennedy Center Honor

* Mary Robinson, the first female President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

* Janet Davison Rowley, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology and Human Genetics at the University of Chicago who discovered the first consistent chromosome translocation in a human cancer

* Bishop Desmond Tutu, leading anti-apartheid activist in South Africa

* Muhammad Yunus, global leader in anti-poverty efforts, founder of the Grameen Bank, the source of millions of dollars in “micro-loans” to poor individuals

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