WASHINGTON (AP)—Civil rights icon John Lewis, poet Maya Angelou and Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell are among the 2010 winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
President Barack Obama will present the awards to the 15 honorees early next year, the White House announced Nov. 17.
|JOHN LEWIS, MAYA ANGELOU and BILL RUSSELL
winners include former President George H.W. Bush, investor Warren Buffett, St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan “The Man” Musial, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
“These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they’ve excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place,” Obama said. “I look forward to awarding them this honor.”
The medal is presented to people who have made notable contributions to U.S. interests, from cultural achievements to security matters.
The full list of winners:
•Lewis, a longtime congressman, was a seminal figure during the Civil Rights Movement. While chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he helped organize the first lunch-counter sit-in in 1959, and was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington in 1963. In 1965, he led the Selma-to-Montgomery march on what came to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” drawing a violent, turbulent Alabama police response that prompted the passage of the Voting Rights
•Angelou, a world-renowned poet, author, educator, and civil rights activist is currently the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. This is the third presidential award she’s received, following the Presidential Medal for the Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008.
•Russell led his Boston Celtic teams to 11 NBA championships in 13 years while also winning five most valuable player awards. He was the first African-American to become a coach of a major sports team at the professional level in the United States.
•George H.W. Bush was America’s 41st president, and previously vice president and CIA director. He also worked with Clinton to raise money for victims Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.
•Merkel is the first woman and first East German to serve as chancellor of a unified Germany.
•Musial is a Hall of Fame first baseman/outfielder who played 22 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals.
•Yo-Yo Ma is a world renowned cellist who has won 16 Grammy awards and is known for his interpretations of Bach and Beethoven. He played at Obama’s inauguration.
•Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, is a famed investor known as the “Oracle of Omaha” for his prescient business sense. He is also a generous philanthropist.
•Jasper Johns, an American artist whose work has dealt with themes of perception and identity. He is considered a major influence on pop, minimal and conceptual art.
•Gerda Weissmann Klein, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who founded Citizenship Counts, an organization that teaches students to cherish the value of their American citizenship.
•Dr. Tom Little, an optometrist murdered last August by the Taliban in Afghanistan as he and nine others returned from a mission to provide eye care in the Parun valley of Nuristan. The award is being given posthumously to Little.
•Sylvia Mendez, a civil rights activist of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent.
•Jean Kennedy Smith, served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland and is the founder of VSA, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that promotes the artistic talents of children and adults with disabilities.
•John Sweeney, AFL-CIO president from 1995-2009.
•John H. Adams, who in 1970 co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council, a prominent environmental advocacy group.