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Obama Presents Medal of Freedom to 16 Notables, Including Sidney Poitier and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Photo: Reuters

President Obama presented the nation’s highest civilian medal, the Medal of Freedom, to 16 notables in the fields of theater, sports, science, humanities and politics on Wednesday at the White House.

Among the recipients were Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier, Archibishop Desmond Tutu, Actress Chita Rivera, physicist Stephen Hawkings, and tennis legend Billie Jean King,

“This is a chance for me — and for the United States of America — to say thank you to some of the finest citizens of this country and of all countries,” Mr. Obama said at the ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

It was both moving and poignant to watch the nation’s first African American president bestow an award to Poitier,who himself has broken through racial barriers, and Billie Jean King, who has made strides for both women and the gay community. However, the most priceless moment was when Obama got a face full of feathers as he placed a medal on 95 year-old Native American historian and educator, Joseph Medicine Crow.

Photo: Jim Young

The President met Medicine Crow during his campaign last year and was made an honorary member of the Crow tribe. Medicine Crow is the tribe’s sole surviving tribal war chief amd became the first of his tribe to receive a masters in anthropology in 1939.

The full list of recipients…

Nancy Goodman Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Pedro José Greer Jr., founder of the Camillus Health Concern, St. John Bosco Clinic
Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist
Jack Kemp, professional football player, Republican Vice President Nominee in 1996
Sen. Edward Kennedy, leading health-care advocate
Billie Jean King, acclaimed professional tennis player
Reverend Joseph Lowery, civil rights movement leader
Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, last living Plains Indian war chief
Harvey Milk, first openly gay elected official
Sandra Day O’Connor, first female U.S. Supreme Court justice
Sidney Poitier, first African-American to win a Best Actor Academy Award
Chita Rivera, first Hispanic recipient of Kennedy Center Honor
Mary Robinson, first female President of Ireland
Janet Davidson Rowley, geneticist
Desmond Tutu, anti-Apartheid activist, Nobel Peace Prize recipient
Muhammad Yunus, anti-poverty leader, Nobel Peace Prize recipient

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