Tag: Presidential Medal of Freedom

Stevie Wonder, Alvin Ailey to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Stevie Wonder

Each year, the White House grants the Presidential Medal of Freedom to individuals who have made major social, political, and cultural contributions to the country. It’s recognized as the highest civilian honor. Later this month, President Obama will bestow the medal on nineteen distinguished recipients including musician Stevie Wonder, murdered civil rights activists James ChaneyAndrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, and notable choreographer Alvin Ailey.

“I look forward to presenting these nineteen bold, inspiring Americans with our nation’s highest civilian honor,” said the President in a statement. “From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world.”

Last year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients included Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.

article via newsone.com

R.I.P. Acclaimed Author and Activist, Dr. Maya Angelou

best-Maya-Angelou-Quotes-sayings-wise-people

Maya Angelou, acclaimed author, poet, professor and civil rights activist, has died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.  Angelou was found by her caretaker this morning, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines confirmed.

Angelou was set to be honored with the “Beacon of Life Award” at the 2014 Major League Baseball Beacon Award Luncheon on May 30 in Houston, but recently cancelled due to  health problems.  She is survived by her son, author Gus Johnson.

Angelou had a prolific career, published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years. She received dozens of awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of seventeen, and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, night-club dancer and performer, castmember of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the days of decolonization. She has also been an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs.

Since 1982, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Since the 1990s she made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.

In 2011, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.  To learn more about her life and career, click here.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson@lakinhutcherson

President Obama Honors Oprah, Clinton with Freedom Medal

Obama and Oprah

WASHINGTON (AP) —President Barack Obama opened a day of tributes to former President John F. Kennedy on Wednesday by bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom on prominent Americans, 50 years after Kennedy was assassinated weeks short of the medal’s first award ceremony.  Obama presented the medal — the highest award the U.S. gives a civilian — to entertainer Oprah Winfrey, former President Bill Clinton, and leaders from the worlds of sports, entertainment, science and public service. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Steven Spielberg were among those gathered in the East Room of the White House to watch the ceremony.

“Today, we salute fierce competitors who became true champions,” Obama said, pausing to speak in personal terms about each of the recipients and their contributions to society.

The ceremony marks the start of a day honoring Kennedy’s legacy two days before the nation pauses to remember the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Later, Obama will pay a visit to the eternal flame that marks John F. Kennedy’s gravesite. He’ll be joined by first lady Michelle Obama and the Clintons at the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.  Turning to the former White House inhabitant, Obama said that Bill Clinton’s presidency had been only the start of his work to improve the world, crediting his post-presidency humanitarian works as helping to save or improve the lives of hundreds of millions around the world.

“I’m grateful, Bill, as well, for the advice and counsel that you’ve offered me, on and off the golf course,” Obama said to chuckles. “And most importantly, for your lifesaving work around the world, which represents what’s the very best in America.”  Obama said the late Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, didn’t just break the stratospheric glass ceiling, “she blasted right through it.”

“Young girls need to see role models, she said. You can’t be what you can’t see,” Obama said. “Today our daughters, including Malia and Sasha, can set their sights a little bit higher because Sally Ride showed them the way.”

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NBA Great Bill Russell Honored with Statue in Boston

Bill Russell, Barack Obama

BOSTON (AP) — It’s a day to honor another of Boston’s greatest sports champions.  Former Celtics star Bill Russell watched the unveiling of his statue Friday at City Hall Plaza. Team owners, NBA Commissioner David Stern, Gov. Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas Menino were there, along with NBA greats Bill Walton, Charles Barkley and Julius Erving.  Russell played center from 1956 to 1969, also serving as player-coach for three seasons. During those years, the Celtics won 11 NBA titles.

Russell was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975. Some believe the Boston honor was long overdue.  President Barack Obama awarded Russell a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Obama got a sneak preview of the statue by a local artist during the president’s Boston visit Wednesday.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press via thegrio.com

Maya Angelou to Receive Honorary Book Award

Dr. Maya Angelou poses at the the Special Recognition Event for Dr. Maya Angelou � The Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait at Dr. Angelou's home June 21, 2010 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Ken Charnock/Getty Images)
Dr. Maya Angelou poses at the the Special Recognition Event for Dr. Maya Angelou The Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait at Dr. Angelou’s home June 21, 2010 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Ken Charnock/Getty Images)

The book world is finally honoring Maya Angelou.

The poet and author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will be this year’s recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community, the National Book Foundation announced today. It is the first major literary prize for the 85-year-old Angelou, who has been celebrated everywhere from the Grammy Awards to the White House. She has received three Grammys for best spoken word album, a National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.

Speaking by telephone with The Associated Press, Angelou said she couldn’t wait to be in the same room as “some very big names in the literary world” and that the Literarian prize made her feel that she was “picking in high cotton.”

“Dr. Angelou’s body of work transcends the words on the page,” the book foundation’s executive director, Harold Augenbraum, said in a statement. “She has been on the front lines of history and the fight for social justice and decade after decade remains a symbol of the redemptive power of literature in the contemporary world.”

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Oprah Winfrey, Ernie Banks and Bayard Rustin to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

barack_obama-1According to ABC News, Oprah Winfrey, baseball great Ernie Banks and 1960s civil rights leader Bayard Rustin are among the 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom that President Obama will honor at the White House later this year.

“The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours,” the president said in a written statement. “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.”

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy established the Medal of Freedom as the nation’s highest civilian honor. Since then, more than 500 people have been recognized with the award for their contributions to all corners of society.  This year’s recipients include musicians, athletes, journalists, lawmakers, advocates and scientists.

In addition to Winfrey, Banks and Rustin (who is receiving his award posthumously), Obama will honor former President Bill Clinton as well as the Washington Post’s former executive editor, Ben Bradlee, who oversaw the newspaper’s coverage of Watergate and the end of the Nixon presidency, former University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, feminist pioneer and political activist Gloria Steinem, country music legend Loretta Lynn, and Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut to travel to space, among others.

Below is the full list of recipients from the White House:

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Born On This Day in 1897: Opera Legend Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson, who became one of the most celebrated singers during the 20th century, was born on Feb. 27, 1897, in Philadelphia, PA.  She began singing in church at 6 years old. Impressed by Anderson’s dedication to perfecting her talents, her church choir raised money for her to take vocal lessons for two years. Anderson soon won a chance to perform at Lewisohn Stadium in New York, and more opportunities followed. 

President Franklin Roosevelt and wife Eleanor invited her to perform at the White House in 1936. In 1939, she faced discrimination from the Daughters of the American Revolution, who did not want her to perform at D.C.’s Constitution Hall. When Eleanor Roosevelt heard of this, she invited Anderson to perform at the Lincoln Memorial.

The singer made history in 1955 as the first African-American to perform as a member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963.  Anderson passed away at the age of 96 in 1993.

article by Natelege Whaley via bet.com

Maya Angelou and John Lewis Named 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom Honorees

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Poet Maya Angelou and civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga, 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 them and the other thirteen honorees early next year, the White House announced Wednesday.  Other winners include President H.W. Bush, investor Warren Buffett, plus St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan “The Man” Musial, Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.  Obama’s bipartisan gesture in picking the first President Bush for the honor is not unprecedented. Former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, awarded a Medal of Freedom to former Republican President Gerald Ford.

“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:

–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 who played 22 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals.

–Russell is the former captain of the Boston Celtics and first black man to become an NBA head coach.

–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.

–Lewis served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and helped organize the first lunch-counter sit-in. In 1965 he led the Selma-to-Montgomery, Ala., march for voting rights and was brutally beaten along with others in what became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

–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.

–Angelou is a prominent poet, educator, filmmaker, producer and civil rights activist.

— 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, a Kennedy family member who 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.

article content via Associated Press and businessweek.com