THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 8, 2013
President Obama Names Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients
2013 Marks 50th Anniversary of President Kennedy’s Establishment of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama named sixteen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals 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 awards will be presented at the White House later this year.
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Executive Order signed by President John F. Kennedy establishing the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as the first ceremony bestowing the honor on an inaugural class of 31 recipients. Since that time, more than 500 exceptional individuals from all corners of society have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
President Obama said, “The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours. 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. It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation’s gratitude.”
Bayard Rustin (posthumous)
Bayard Rustin was an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all. An advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he promoted nonviolent resistance, participated in one of the first Freedom Rides, organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities at home and abroad. As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.
“Every year, during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, we hear the iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, which was delivered at the 1963 March on Washington,” says veteran lesbian activist Mandy Carter, NBJC’s Bayard Rustin 2013 Commemoration Project National Coordinator. “Yet, most people do not know that Bayard Rustin, an out Black gay man, was the key organizer for that groundbreaking event. America needs to know that Bayard existed. Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and same-gender-loving people need to know that Rustin stood firm in his identity and, by his very presence, challenged others in the Civil Rights Movement to overcome homophobia. Thank you, President Obama, for giving Bayard Rustin the recognition he deserves”
President Obama will award the prestigious medal of freedom on 16 notable Americans, including former President Bill Clinton, entertainer Loretta Lynn and media mogul Oprah Winfrey. Significantly among the names are two LGBT pioneers, Sally Ride and Bayard Rustin, who will both receive the honor posthumously.
According to the White House press release, Rustin will be honored for his work as “an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all. An advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he promoted nonviolent resistance, participated in one of the first Freedom Rides, organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities at home and abroad. As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.”
Ride is noted as ”the first American female astronaut to travel to space. As a role model to generations of young women, she advocated passionately for science education, stood up for racial and gender equality in the classroom, and taught students from every background that there are no limits to what they can accomplish. Dr. Ride also served in several administrations as an advisor on space exploration.
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