President Obama names 16 recipients of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom

Saturday, August 1, 2009

President Barack Obama

United States President Barack Obama has named the 16 recipients who are to receive the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honour a civilian can receive. The medal is awarded to those who make significant contributions to the security and national interests of United States and the World.

British Physicist Stephen Hawking is included on the list. Hawking, who suffers from motor neuron disease, wrote A Brief History of Time. As well as writing science books he is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was one of the leading anti-Apartheid activists in South Africa, joins Hawking on the list. Senator Ted Kennedy who has represented the United States senate for forty six years was also named.

Former football player and U.S congressman Jack Kemp has posthumously been awarded for his encouragement in the development of underserved urban communities. Also being awarded are African American actor Sidney Poitier and Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus.

The women being awarded this year include Billie Jean King, the tennis player who defeated Bobby Riggs in the "battle of the sexes", and Mary Robinson who was the first female President of Ireland. Others include organiser Nancy Goodman Brinker, physician Pedro José Greer, Jr., Reverend Joseph Lowery, author Joe Medicine Crow, and the first openly gay official Harvey Milk. The first woman to sit on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, is also being awarded. Actress Chita Rivera and Professor Janet Davison Rowley will also be recognised by President Obama.

President Obama released a statement saying "These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds. Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change. Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way. Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we all should strive. It is my great honor to award them the Medal of Freedom."

The 16 will be recognised at a ceremony on August 12.