Director and jury president Steven Spielberg gestures to an applauding audience at Cannes, southern France, May 15, 2013.
Photo by Francois Mori/AP

Steven Spielberg, Yogi Berra among 2015 Medal of Freedom recipients

It’s awards season at the White House.

President Barack Obama announced Monday the names of the 17 individuals who will receive this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in a ceremony later this month. 

The 2015 recipients come from all walks of life, from cultural icons like filmmaker Steven Spielberg and Latin music power couple Gloria and Emilio Estefan to activists like veterans advocate Bonnie Carroll and the late Native American treaty rights advocate Billy Frank Jr.

Two athletes – the late Yogi Berra, known as one of the greatest catchers in history, and Willie Mays, one of the first African-American players inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame – will be recognized not just for their athletic accomplishments, but also their efforts off the field to make sports more inclusive. 

Still others have made history in politics. The late Rep. Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American woman elected to Congress, and will be remembered for her devotion to education and equal employment opportunities for minorities. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who became the longest-serving woman in Congress in 2012, will be honored for her promotion of equal pay, her fight for affordable higher education and efforts to promote investments in research and innovation. 

“I look forward to presenting these 17 distinguished Americans with our nation’s highest civilian honor,” Obama said in a statement. He will present the awards on Nov. 24.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded each year to a group of individuals who have made remarkable contributions to “the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the White House.

Past recipients of the award include former President Bill Clinton, activist Gloria Steinem, talk show host Oprah Winfrey and current GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson.

Barack Obama and White House

Steven Spielberg, Yogi Berra among 2015 Medal of Freedom recipients