President Obama awarded 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday calling the collection of people “what makes us the greatest nation on Earth.”
“This is America,” President Obama said pointing at the group behind him, which consisted mostly of Hollywood elites and other celebrities, including two of the best basketball players in American history.
POTUS on the Medal of Freedom honorees: “This is America… this collection of people is what makes us the greatest nation on earth” pic.twitter.com/7sJutcMdmS
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 22, 2016
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the United State’s highest civilian honor. It is presented to those 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,” according to the White House website.
Actors Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford and actress Cicely Tyson received the award along with musicians Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross. The President also awarded famous producer and screenwriter Lorne Michaels and comedian Ellen DeGeneres.
Other famous award recipients included Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, former NBA stars Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Michael Jordan, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates.
The remaining eight award recipients aren’t nearly as famous, although their contributions to society are arguably more significant. These eight honorees received the award for notable contributions to physics, architecture, mathematics, computer science, education and law, among other things.
“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation’s highest civilian honor — it’s a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better,” President Obama said.