The 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom awards were presented Monday to actress Meryl Streep, singer Stevie Wonder, journalist Tom Brokaw, and 16 other civil activists, artists, and public figures.
The Medal of Freedom recipients were honored at a White House ceremony, and President Barack Obama personally bestowed the awards.
Other living recipients of the 2014 Medal of Freedom include:
- Ethel Kennedy, widow of the late Robert F. Kennedy and founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
- Congressman John Dingell of Michigan, who will retiring from his career in politics and is currently the longest-serving member of Congress.
- Stephen Sondheim, composer of musicals and winner of eight Tony Awards.
- Isabel Allende, a Chilean-American author known for her works of magic realism.
- Suzan Harjo, a Native-American activist and writer.
- Marlo Thomas, a four-time Emmy-winning actress and current National Outreach Director for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
- Robert Solow, an economist who won the Economics Nobel Prize in 1987.
- Charles Sifford, the first African-American golfer induced into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
- Abner Mikva, a former Congressman representing Illinois.
- Mildred Dresselhaus, physicist and professor of physics and electrical engineering at MIT.
Of the 19 medals awarded, six were given out posthumously. The trio of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner will be awarded the medal for their work in promoting voting rights in Mississippi the 1960’s. All three were assassinated by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964. Their story was dramatized in the 1988 film Mississippi Burning.
Others who were awarded posthumously include:
- Alvin Ailey, an African-American choreographer who helped popularize modern dance. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City is named in his honor.
- Patsy Mink, a Japanese-American U.S. Representative from Hawaii who served in the House for 12 terms. She was the first female minority and female Asian-American elected to Congress.
- Edward Roybal, a Congressman from California who founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Awards are given to exemplary Americans “who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” the White House said.
Notable Medal of Freedom recipients from 2013 include the astronaut Sally Ride, Oprah Winfrey, and former President Bill Clinton.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was first awarded in 1963. Three people, including Colin Powell, have been awarded twice.