Former President Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey, along with 14 other people, will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. President Obama will bestow the awards later his year, according to the White House.
More than 500 people have received the medal since President John F. Kennedy first established the medal 50 years ago. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who have made “especially meritorious contributions” to national security, world peace or cultural achievements.
“This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world,” Obama said in a statement.
Clinton will be recognized for his work with the Clinton Foundation, which aims to improve global health and wellness, strengthen economies, and protect the environment. TV and media giant Oprah Winfrey will receive the award for her philanthropic efforts with education and vocational opportunities for young women.
Here are the other winners the White House announced Thursday:
- Daniel Inouye, former senator from Hawaii, World War II veteran and the first Japanese American in Congress. Inouye will receive the award posthumously.
- Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post who oversaw the newspaper’s coverage of Watergate.
- Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. Ride will receive the award posthumously.
- Richard Lugar, former senator from Indiana who worked to reduce the global nuclear threat.
- Gloria Steinem, writer and prominent women’s rights activist.
- Ernie Banks, baseball player who hit more than 500 home runs and played 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs.
- Bayard Rustin, civil and gay rights activist and adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. Rustin will receive the award posthumously.
- Daniel Kahneman, psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics.
- Loretta Lynn, country music singer.
- Maria Molina, chemist and environmental scientist who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
- Arturo Sandoval, Grammy-winning jazz musician who was born in Cuba and defected to the U.S.
- Dean Smith, head coach of University of North Carolina’s basketball team for 36 years.
- Patricia Wald, first woman appointed to U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and became the court’s chief judge.
- C.T. Vivian, civil rights leader and minister.