Honoring the achievements of the Presidential Medal of Freedom award winners today at the White House, the President noted that the 16 recipients
represent some of the finest citizens in the world. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is America's highest medal awarded to civilians. The President remarked that the recipients hail from very diverse backgrounds –from the tennis court to the Supreme Court – but all have been agents of change in their communities and around the world:
The men and women we honor today have led very different lives and pursued very different careers. They're pioneers in science and medicine. They're gifted artists and indomitable athletes. They have made their mark in the courtroom, in the community, and in Congress. And what unites them is a belief -- that most -- forgive me to those of you who are not Americans -- but what we consider to be that most American of beliefs -- that our lives are what we make of them; that no barriers of race, gender, or physical infirmity can restrain the human spirit; and that the truest test of a person's life is what we do for one another.
The recipients of the Medal of Freedom did not set out to win this or any other award. They did not set out in pursuit of glory or fame or riches. Rather, they set out, guided by passion, committed to hard work, aided by persistence, often with few advantages but the gifts, grace, and good name God gave them. So, let them stand as an example here in the United States -- and around the world -- of what we can achieve in our own lives. Let them stand as an example of the difference we can make in the lives of others. Let each of their stories stand as an example of a life well lived.
(President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House August 12, 2009. The medal is the country's highest civilian honor. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
You can read the President’s complete remarks and learn more about the honorees here
(President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to Stephen Hawking during the Medal of Freedom ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, August 12, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
(Former President or Ireland Mary Robinson, center, congratulates Sidney Poitier, left, after he received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House August 12, 2009. Fellow recipients looking on are Archbishop Desmond Tutu, right, and back row, left to right are; Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Chita Rivera, Dr. Janet Davison Rowley, and Muhammad Yunus. The medal is the country's highest civilian honor. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)