On the 50th year anniversary of J.F.K.’s assassination, President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to 16 people including former President Bill Clinton and talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
Other recipients this year include:
-Former Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks for being, as the White House puts it, “one of the greatest baseball players of all time. During his 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, he played in 11 All-Star Games, hit over 500 home runs, and became the first National League player to win Most Valuable Player honors in back-to-back years.” In August, the Cubs paid tribute to Banks for receiving the Presidential Medal with a pre-game tribute at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Banks told fans, “You made it possible for me to receive this great honor.” The 82-year-old added, “I didn’t play in the World Series … but this to me takes the place of all the days I’ve spent out here that didn’t make it.”
-Ben Bradlee, former executive editor at the Washington Post, who oversaw coverage of the Watergate break-in.
-Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut to travel to space. Ride died last year.
-Former Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who died last year, honored posthumously for his lifelong public service. He was the first Japanese American to serve in Congress, and represented Hawaii from the day the island state joined the Union.
-Country music star Loretta Lynn, for, “breaking barriers in an industry long dominated by men,” according to the White House. She became one of the first successful female country artists in the 1960s.
-Women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, for her leadership “in the women’s liberation movement,” the White House said, and as co-founder of Ms. Magazine.
Past Medal of Freedom award winners include music legends Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald; civil rights icons Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks; and former presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.