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Medal of Freedom

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August 12, 2009 – Washington D.C.

August 12, 2009 – Washington D.C. (Cable Muse Network) --  Today, President Barack Obama presented 16 Medals of Freedom: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sidney Poitier, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Reverend Joseph E. Lowery, Harvey Milk (posthumously), Billy Jean King, Medicine Crow, Mary Robinson,  Jack French Kemp (posthumously), Dr. Pedro José "Joe" Greer Jr., Dr. Janet Davison Rowley,  Nancy Goodman Brinker, Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero, Professor Stephen Hawking, Suzy Komen, and the Honorable Sandra Day O'Connor.

There is no civilian honor as esteemed than the Medal of Freedom from the President of the United States. The Medal was established in 1945 by President Harry Truman and through executive order President John F. Kennedy reestablished the tradition of recognizing major accomplishments of United States citizens. Today, President Obama kept tradition and made history by acknowledging the work of 16 individuals that challenged diversity and humanity within the United States.

This is the first time in history an American President had bestowed the Medal of Freedom to citizens for breaking down barriers on gay and lesbian orientation, these were bestowed on Billy Jean King and Harvey Milk (posthumously). Billy Jean King was also acknowledged for her work advocating gender equality in sports. King gave her gold Medal a gracious kiss after Obama secured the sash around her neck. President Obama also bestowed honors to the first women to sit on the United States Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor, and the first African America to win an academy award Sidney Poitier. Poitier always in his natural character, an astute, distinguished gentleman, stood tall as the President secured Sidney’s honor.

Obama said, “There are many honors and privileges bestowed on the occupant of this house, but few mean as much to me as the chance to award America's highest civilian medal to the recipients that are here today. This is a chance for me -- and for the United States of America -- to say thank you to some of the finest citizens of this country, and of all countries.”

READ: The White House Press Release

Related Background: Billy Jean King 

Cable Muse Network writer Ben Cable in Phoenix, Arizona contributed to this report.Copyright 2009 Cable Muse Network, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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