President Obama has selected 16 ‘agents of change’ to honor with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor, on a cast of living and deceased figures widely known in politics, the arts and sciences, sports and social movements.
Marking a new standard in what type of folks receive this prized award, President Obama says these people he chose have ‘blazed trails and broken down barriers.’ (I couldn’t agree more!)
They include a pioneer in women’s sports, Billie Jean King, and the first woman on the Supreme Court, retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; Harvey Milk, the San Francisco supervisor who led an early movement for gay rights in public life and was assassinated.
The list goes on with Nancy Goodman Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer grass-roots organization; Joseph Medicine Crow, the last living Plains Indian war chief and author of major works in Native American history and culture; Dr. Pedro Jose Greer Jr., founder of an agency that provides medical care to more than 10,000 homeless patients a year in Miami.
Actor Sidney Poitier and singer Chita Rivera were also named. Among the honorees from the international scene are British cosmologist Stephen Hawking, and Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland and a former United Nations high commissioner for human rights. Also named were the late Republican congressman Jack Kemp, a onetime pro football standout as well, and ailing Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.
More: Dr. Janet Davison Rowley, an American human geneticist internationally renowned for her work on leukemia and lymphoma; Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner who has provided loans to help millions of people fight poverty by starting businesses; American civil rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery, and South African archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu.
"These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds," Obama said. "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.”
My Congratulations to all; they will be a tough act to follow!