LOS ANGELES, Nov 17, (RTRS): Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, Stephen Sondheim, Gloria Estefan and James Taylor are among the recipients of this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, to be presented at the White House by President Obama on Nov. 24.
Other recipients include veterans activist Bonnie Carroll, music producer Emilio Estefan, former Rep Lee Hamilton, NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, baseball legend Willie Mays, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), conductor Itzhak Perlman and former EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus. Posthumous honors will go to Yogi Berra; Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress; Indian treaty rights activist Billy Frank Jr. and human rights leader Minoru Yasui.
The Medal of Freedom is the White House’s highest civilian honor.
The list of recipients of each year’s Medal of Freedom usually includes a handful from entertainment. Meryl Streep and Stevie Wonder were among the recipients in 2014. Sondheim was a recipient last year, but could not make the ceremony, and Obama said back then that he would receive the honor at the 2015 event.
The White House’s full descriptions of the recipients are below:
Yogi Berra (posthumous)
Yogi Berra spent over 40 years as a professional baseball catcher, manager, and coach. Widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history — and an all-time Yankee great — Berra was an 18-time All-Star and 10-time World Series Champion who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. Always quick witted, Berra was famous for his “Yogi-isms,” teaching us all that we can observe a lot just by watching. Berra was also a lifelong ambassador for inclusion in sports.
Bonnie Carroll is a life-long public servant who has devoted her life to caring for our military and veterans. After her husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll, died in an Army C-12 plane crash in 1992, Carroll founded the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which provides comprehensive support to those impacted by the death of their military hero, bringing healing comfort and compassionate care to the living legacies of our nation’s service and sacrifice. Carroll is also a retired Major in the Air Force Reserve.
Shirley Chisholm (posthumous)
Shirley Chisholm made history in 1968 by becoming the first African-American woman elected to Congress, beginning the first of seven terms in the House of Representatives. In 1969 she became one of the founding members of what would become the Congressional Black Caucus. Not satisfied, Chisholm went on to make history yet again, becoming the first major-party African-American female candidate to make a bid for the US presidency when she ran for the Democratic nomination in 1972. She was a champion of minority education and employment opportunities throughout her tenure in Congress.
Emilio Estefan is a passionate and visionary music producer, entrepreneur, author, and songwriter who has won nineteen Grammy Awards and influenced a generation of artists. As the founding member of the Miami Sound Machine, and later through a decades-long career producing and shaping the work of countless stars, Estefan has helped popularize Latin music around the world. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Gloria Estefan is a singer, songwriter, actor, and entrepreneur who introduced Latin music to a global audience. The Cuban-American lead singer of the Miami Sound Machine has had chart topping hits such as “Conga,” “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” and “Anything for You.” Estefan has won seven Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide. She is an inductee to the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Billy Frank, Jr. (posthumous)
Billy Frank, Jr. was a tireless advocate for Indian treaty rights and environmental stewardship, whose activism paved the way for the “Boldt decision,” which reaffirmed tribal co-management of salmon resources in the state of Washington. Frank led effective “fish-ins,” which were modeled after sit-ins of the civil rights movement, during the tribal “fish wars” of the 1960s and 1970s. His magnetic personality and tireless advocacy over more than five decades made him a revered figure both domestically and abroad. Frank was the recipient of many awards, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award for Humanitarian Achievement.
Lee Hamilton has been one of the most influential voices on international relations and American national security over the course of his more than 40 year career. From 1965 to 1999, he served Indiana in the United States House of Representatives, where his chairmanships included the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran. Since retiring from Congress, Hamilton has been involved in efforts to address some of our nation’s most high profile homeland security and foreign policy challenges. He served as Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission and Co-Chairman of the Iraq Study Group.
Katherine G. Johnson
Katherine G. Johnson is a pioneer in American space history. A NASA mathematician, Johnson’s computations have influenced every major space program from Mercury through the Shuttle program. Johnson was hired as a research mathematician at the Langley Research Center with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the agency that preceded NASA, after they opened hiring to African-Americans and women. Johnson exhibited exceptional technical leadership and is known especially for her calculations of the 1961 trajectory for Alan Shepard’s flight (first American in space), the 1962 verification of the first flight calculation made by an electronic computer for John Glenn’s orbit (first American to orbit the earth), and the 1969 Apollo 11 trajectory to the moon.
Willie Mays was a professional baseball player, spending most of his 22 seasons as a center fielder for the New York and San Francisco Giants. Mays ended his career with 660 home runs, making him the fifth all-time record-holder. Known as “The Say Hey Kid,” Mays was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 and landed on MLB’s All-Time team. In 1951, Mays became one of the first African-American players in Major League Baseball history and won the Rookie of the Year award. Mays also served his country in the United States Army.
Barbara Mikulski is a lifelong public servant, who has held elected office since 1971. She became the longest serving female Senator in 2011, the longest serving woman in Congress in 2012, and the first female Senator to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee in 2012. Applying what she witnessed in her early career as a social worker and community activist in Baltimore, Maryland to her time in office, Senator Mikulski championed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and helped establish the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health to include women in federally-funded health research protocols.
Itzhak Perlman is a treasured conductor and sought-after teacher. Among his many achievements are four Emmy Awards, 16 Grammy Awards, and the 2008 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He was awarded a National Medal of Arts in 2000 and a Kennedy Center Honor in 2003. A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18. In addition to performing internationally and recording the classical music for which he is best known, Perlman has also played jazz, including an album made with jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.
William D. Ruckelshaus is a dedicated public servant who has worked tirelessly to protect public health and combat global challenges like climate change. As the first and fifth Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, under Presidents Nixon and Reagan, he not only shaped the guiding principles of the agency, but also worked diligently to bring the public into the decision making process.
Stephen Sondheim is one of the country’s most influential theater composers and lyricists. His work has helped define American theater with shows such as Company, West Side Story, Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods. Sondheim has received eight Grammy Awards, eight Tony Awards, an Academy Award, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Steven Spielberg is an American film director, producer, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. Spielberg’s films include blockbusters such as Jaws, Jurassic Park, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and the Indiana Jones series, as well as socially conscious works Schindler’s List,Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, and his newest film Bridge of Spies. A three-time Academy Award winner, Spielberg is widely considered one of the most influential filmmakers in cinematic history.
Barbra Streisand is one of our Nation’s most gifted talents. Her body of work includes extraordinary singing, acting, directing, producing, songwriting, and she is one of the few performers to receive an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and a Tony. Her performance in 1968’s Funny Girl endeared her to Americans for generations, and she won her first Academy Award for her role in that film. In 1984, she became the first woman to win a Golden Globe for Best Director, which she won for the motion picture Yentl. Streisand is also a recipient of four Peabody Awards, in addition to the National Medal of Arts and Kennedy Center Honors.
As a recording and touring artist, James Taylor has touched people with his warm baritone voice and distinctive style of guitar-playing for more than 40 years, while setting a precedent to which countless young musicians have aspired. Over the course of his celebrated songwriting and performing career, Taylor has sold more than 100 million albums, earning gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards for classics ranging from Sweet Baby James in 1970 to October Road in 2002.